NICHOLAS DEYOE : ”for Duane” = Finally, the cylindrical voids tapping along; 1560; Lied/Lied; Immer wieder; Lullaby 6 “for Duane” – wasteLAnd Ensemble – Populist Records PRO13, 62:27 (10/20/2017) ***: 

Experimental, yes—in a way—but very intriguing!

Populist Records is a small Los Angeles based label specializing in new and experimental music from within the LA arts community. This release was just premiered last night, October 20, 2017, (at the writing of this review, October 21.) The premiere show was held at the Tymele Arts Theatre and based just on what I have heard here I would have loved to have been there! (I get out to LA fairly often for LA Phil concerts and new music adventures of various sorts.)

​The show featured music from this album, with performances by cellist Ashley Walters (who also has a new album on Populist to be reviewed), composer-performer Nicholas Deyoe, the wasteLAnd ensemble, violinist Batya MacAdam-Somer, and more. (Publicity materials indicate that Solarc Brewing was also “there pouring some special beers they’ve created for the occasion”. Another reason I would have wanted to be there!)

Nicholas Deyoe is the founder of wasteLAnd as well as a composition professor at Cal Arts. He has been commissioned to write music for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall and the La Jolla Symphony among others. I found this album with five very esoteric, intriguing and unusual works of his very interesting to be sure. I’ve never much cared for the expression “experimental music” because the experimentation occurs in the composer’s mind and studio well before we declare a work to be ‘composed.’ Additionally, back in the days of “chance music” (such as much of John Cage and David Tudor, et al) we have to accept the ‘chance’ that it won’t sound very good (as a theory prof of mine once proffered.)

Such is not the case with Deyoe’s work. It is carefully constructed and all creates a very bizarre and occasionally strident sound world – in this case very string heavy thanks in large part to the appreciable talents of Ashley Walters and all members of wasteLAnd. Having said that, listeners not accustomed to music that sounds improvisatory, spontaneous, other-worldly and—I’m sure to some—a bit ‘weird’ will not really know what to do with this.

Personally, I liked the dark, transcendental and almost ‘creepy’ aspects of Nicholas’ works; and especially those that involve text such as the lengthy, jarring but fascinating opening work, Finally, the cylindrical voids tapping along; with poetry by Allison Carter. Truth be told; there were moments in Deyoe’s work that evoked (in my mind) touches of George Crumb, Luigi Nono and the like which I consider positives.

I was hoping to catch a fresh review of the show right this morning, October 21 but one is probably still coming. (Nicholas, if you catch this I’d love to come out and catch a live show sometime to then writeup in connection with other Populist Records releases.) In the meantime, I think listeners may benefit from reading a really interesting article on the New Classic LA blog about Nick and Ashley and their music. This is a refreshing, fascinating release that will hold your attention especially if you already know and like ‘cutting edge’ contemporary music. Other listeners should know that’s precisely what this is but should try stretching your aural palate and check it out!

—Daniel Coombs