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Coins & Crosses

Ryan Teague

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Album Review

Ryan Teague's follow-up to his Type debut, the 2005 Six Preludes EP, is ambitious, to say the least. Appearing on almost every track is the Cambridge Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Tim Redmond. Ambitious indeed for an electronic artist, yet understated, as Teague is anything but pompous. Throughout Coins and Crosses, he attempts to fuse melodic orchestral compositions and textural electronics, to various degrees and with varying results. Teague's music is closer to Mahler's than Beethoven's: slow chords, melancholy moods, movements of turmoil repressed by an overbearing languor. This is all particularly obvious in "Fantasia for Strings," in which there are no electronics at all. Surprisingly, the piece never feels out of place on the album, which means that either Teague succeeds in his fusion of orchestra and electronics, or that his electronics are superfluous elsewhere on the album. In the two "Tableau" and "Accidia," Teague's abstract sounds intermingle with the orchestral textures to great effect, especially in "Tableau II," where the orchestra's suspenseful crescendos feel like just another layer of electronics, yet could not have had the same impact were it another layer of electronics. Many experimental electronica artists have played with orchestral ideas in the past, from Fennesz's heavily treated textures to Robert Lippok's use of Mahler samples (see Open Close Open), but Teague takes it further by turning the "(ab)use" of the orchestra into a genuine fusion of genres. It should not come as a surprise if the actual result feels somewhat akin to new age music — some listeners will undoubtedly find Coins and Crosses too syrupy. Then again, the Type label has been running circles around that territory for a little while, and there is no denying the artistic accomplishment this album represents. ~ François Couture, Rovi

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