Classical CD Reviews

LACH LAU: “Islas” = Pantaleón; ‘round ruby; rzw + Continuidad Paralela; γеnealoπaedie; Chamba de um acorde; Blank Space – The Electric Hammer/ Moravian Philharmonic Ch. Players/Ens. 3 /soloists – Navona

Quite an interesting new and unique voice!

Published on March 17, 2013

JUAN SEBASTIAN LACH LAU: “Islas” = Pantaleón; ‘round ruby; rzw + Continuidad Paralela; γеnealoπaedie; Chamba de um acorde; Blank Space – The Electric Hammer/Moravian Philharmonic Chamber Players/Ensemble 3 /soloists – Navona Records NV5894 (Distr. by Naxos), 51:43 ****:

I first became familiar with the music of Juan Sebastian Lach Lau in a previous recording of his γеnealoπaedie (“genealpaedie”, inspired  by Satie) on Navona’a Sculpting the Air. This particular piece is quite complex, based on partial harmonics produced in the flute part and so forth. I also know and have played his Blank Space, for clarinet, piano and pre-recorded tape. This is dense, complex but entirely interesting stuff!

Juan is a very interesting guy with an eclectic background. He has played keyboards and piano in jazz and rock bands in Mexico. He was once perhaps best known as one of the members of the Guadalajara-based band “Santa Sabina.”. He studied at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague under Louis Andriessen among others. He has written chamber music for a diverse combination of instruments with and without electronics. His music has been premiered in Mexico, the Netherlands, Ireland, England, the United States, Germany and Spain among others. He has also participated as part of an improvisers ensemble based in The Hague playing piano and analog electronics.

To his credit, his music fits no categories and really does not sound like that of anyone else’s. As mentioned, I have heard γеnealoπaedie before and it is a quite complex but fascinating work for mixed ensemble that I enjoy more each time I hear it. Blank Space is a stark and oddly compelling work for solo clarinet, piano and a pre-recorded tape consisting of street sounds and such. While I do enjoy both of these works, it is the ones new to me from this album that I appreciated the most.

Pantaleon is a bizarre but intriguing piece for custom drum set and computers. The three atypical drums are reacted to and modified by the computers to create a wholly unusual set of sounds. ‘round ruby is quite a different deal. Inspired by the music of Thelonius Monk and also Stockhausen, this piece explores the relationships between harmony and rhythm and sounds quite ambient and peaceful.

Rzw+Continuidad Paralela is an amalgam of two works originally intended as a quadraphonic recording. rzw is a work written in 2002 intended to utilize electronics and spatial aspects of a five rhythm/five note group. Continuidad Paralela was a separate work Lach Lau had written to accompany a video. In realizing that the two separate works might be morphed into an interesting new whole, the composer worked with Pedro Salvador in creating the current version, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Electronics and the blend of acoustic and electronic sound sources has always been a major component of Lach Lau’s music.

Chamba de um acorde is, as Lach Lau describes it, based on the configurations and permutations of a single chord; a “Moireé pattern” on harmonies. This is a fascinating work that challenges the listener to be sure. As I mention, I am familiar with Blank Space, a work that also challenges the listener but also the performers, but not in a traditionally “technical” way. The clarinet and piano play some algorhythmically-derived materials against pre-recorded sounds of voices and bombs going off in the Gaza strip. The composer relates these events to what seemed like the madness of the Mexican war on drugs.

Juan Sebastian Lach Lau is, clearly, a very deep thinker who writes music that cannot be listened to casually. I enjoy his music, especially for the depth and complexity of it. I think you would also appreciate immersing your intellect in this new type of composition.

—Daniel Coombs

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