“American Aggregate” – Music composed by NATHAN LINCOLN-DECUSATIS, ARMANDO BAYOLO, DAN VISCONTI, JULIA ADOLPHE, STEPHEN GORBOS, GREGORY SPEARS and JOSEPH HALLMAN [TrackList follows] – Inscape – Sono Luminus Pure Audio Blu-ray + CD DSL-92179, 82:40 [Distr. by Naxos] (8/1/14) ****:

This dynamic recording and performance presents the world premiere recordings of seven works commissioned by or specifically arranged for Inscape.  Like their first album, Sprung Rhythm, released in July 2013, this disc features a collection of chamber ensemble works by some of America’s most diverse and exciting young composers.

Like many of the recent Sono Luminus recordings of late, this is a two-disc set, with a multichannel Blu-ray audio disc with PCM two channel plus DTS-HD 5.1 channel and 7.1 channel mix. There is also a standard CD (instead of the SACD offered by 2L…Ed.), along with downloadable tracks for mobile listening.  Starting with the musical offering, it is diverse, yet the entire disc is a good straight-through listen. Atonal in places, melodic in others, it’s a worthwhile journey through the minds of some young and up and coming composers.

The first piece is Oblivion, by Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis. It’s a chamber piece in three movements (having nothing to do with Piazzolla’s work of the same name…Ed.). Each movement is modeled on a specific sonic shape. It’s an introspective piece, with wonderful orchestral colors. Wide Open Spaces by Armando Bayolo evokes the challenge we face from climate change. The piece is thematically framed around our precious National Parks. It’s a three section work, with dynamic participation from the piano and vibraphone.

Black Bend by Dan Viconti was commissioned by the Cleveland Museum of Art, and presents some eerie aural images of a haunted bridge over the Cuyahoga River. Wordless Creatures by Julia Adolphe is without a formal program, but is a well constructed soundscape of shifting orchestral moods.

Continuing in sort of an occult mood, we next have The Extraordinary Gryssandra Wycke by Joseph Hallman. It’s a tone poem featuring bassoon, percussion, and string quartet. It’s an inventive work, served well by surround sound of the high-res disc. Stephan Gorbos is the composer for What I Decided to Keep, composed in 2012. It’s a tribute to Bartok’s 5th String Quartet. It’s another inventive piece, rich in emotion and while inspired by Bartok, it speaks with its own voice. It was my favorite composition in the collection.

Finally, the disc offers Gregory Spears The Bear and the Dove. It’s a dissonant and interesting work, with echoes of Gershwin and Mahler, and odd juxtaposition. This track is a bonus only on the Blu-ray disc.

The recording is superb, just what we have come to expect from Sono Luminus. I listened to the 7.1 mix, and the CD, and as in past releases, the high resolution tracks trump the CD. The CD is excellent, of course, but the added spaciousness and clean high frequencies on the Blu-ray make a significant difference. It’s not a demonstration disc showing the extremes of the frequency spectrum, excellent as it is, but in terms of being transported into an acoustic environment that sounds absolutely real it is of demonstration quality.


1-3. Oblivion 
Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis
4. Wide Open Spaces 
Armando Bayolo
5. Black Bend 
Dan Visconti
6. Wordless Creatures 
Julia Adolphe
7. The Extrodinary Gryssandra Wycke 
Joseph Hallman
8. What I Decided to Keep 
Stehphen Gorbos
9. The Bear and the Dove  ** Bonus Track (on Blu-ray™ only)
Gregory Spears

—Mel Martin