By Daniel Garrett
Produced by Matt McBane and Adam D. Gold
New Amsterdam Records, 2011
The bass rhythm and percussion in the composition “Behavior Patterns,” on the album Place by the classical musical group Build, could appear in a rock band’s song without much change, though they fit in the engaging “Behavior Patterns” amid the pleasantly plinking and plunking sound, a piece that has an accessible melody and seems contemporarily western and suggestively eastern, with energy, variety, and a subtle humor. The rhythm is more urgent in “Dissolve,” which begins and ends with the shimmer of a cymbal and recalls both classical and popular music; its instrumentation is traditional, its rhythm rapid, its arrangement clear and focused. The melody is melancholy, but the beat is cheery in “Ride,” before it all begins to sing together, beautifully. It is interesting to hear violin and bass with rock drumming, and strings that sound both eccentric and mellow. In “Ride” is music that carries some of the aura of the world in which it was made, a world that is complex but often seems to lack depth—a world of fine consciousness and rough manners. It was, apparently, intended to evoke a ManhattanBridge bike ride.
The first segment of the three-part (fast-slow-fast) composition “Swelter” has an angular, intensely sawing rhythm with short beats, a silent break, followed by a piano, the high shining percussion, and vintage bass tone joined in a fast rhythm then counter-rhythms. It has a slippery groove featuring a beat that glides and stops, glides and stops; and that first part is appealing but not soothing. The second part is quiet, slow, almost tense, with a sprinkling of piano notes, and a heavy, slow bass—until what is ponderous achieves beauty. The third part—the fast tempo of the piano, staccato string rhythm, and jazzy percussion—creates and maintains a tension between rhythms (the way one instrument complements and contrasts another reminds me of jazz, as does the jittery energy). The composition, inspired by New York City’s notoriously hot summers, as well as the work of Debussy, Portishead, and Steve Reich, may be the band Build’s unique nod to the sonata.
In the well-traveled musical group Build, begun in December 2006 and together for more than four years, are cellist Andrea Lee, bassist Ben Campbell, violinist Matt McBane, pianist Michael Cassedy, and drummer Adam D. Gold; and the compositions, drawing from classical and experimental music as well as jazz and folk music, are by Matt McBane, who, of Place, has said, “I think of this album as being in three chapters of three tracks each…” The music of Build has received the approval of The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, as well as Bloomberg News and Time Out New York and the keepers of internet logs. Of course, a group that can reconcile different cultural traditions in a world such as ours has value.
In “Cleave,” a soft piano march is shadowed by an ominous tone, and a weighted drumbeat that becomes something of a rattle. By the end of “Cleave,” such a sense of personality is conveyed through the instruments, especially from the piano, that one begins to hear a voice: from a long-held note, and the leisurely piano playing as that long note shrivels, to the intermittent martial drumming present as the long note begins to grow again into a siren. The music may be too comprehensible to the classical world, though it resembles little that most of us are likely to come across on television or radio or in the collections of the people we know.
The listener can hear the vibraphone in “Anchor.” There is an experimental aspect to “Anchor,” which—with a fragmented construction, sounding like a quirky conversation—seems both western and eastern, with shifts in rhythm patterns, one instrument after another, each playing fast, different tones—and an interim of silence then a sad, slow bass against the cheer of other instruments. Each sound matters; and intensifies concentration. Something like a signal ends the piece. “Maintain” is layered, like stairs, the climbing of musical stairs; and in it are a pulsating rhythm, a throbbing tone, strings, and a low but sustained momentum.
Daniel Garrett, a graduate of the New School for Social Research, and the principal organizer of the Cultural Politics Discussion Group at Poets House, is a writer whose work has appeared in The African, All About Jazz, American Book Review, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Black Film Review, Changing Men, Cinetext, Contact II, Film International, The Humanist, Hyphen, Illuminations, Muse Apprentice Guild, Offscreen, Option, Pop Matters, Quarterly Black Review of Books, Rain Taxi, Red River Review, Review of Contemporary Fiction, Wax Poetics, and World Literature Today. Garrett has said, “Being an artist is not a pursuit of success or an acceptance of failure; rather, it is an openness to life and its deepest possibilities, an openness to imagination, intellect, and spirit, and a correspondent commitment to craft experience and objects influenced by that openness.” Contact: dgarrett31@hotmail or D.Garrett.Writer@gmail.com