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Album Review

On Beyond, composer Barry Schrader presented lengthy pieces of electro-acoustic music written between 1992 and 2004, three of them grouped into a 2004 suite titled "Death." Diverse instrumentation, including waterphones, harpsichord, violin, and computer-treated samples, were used to create celestial soundscapes evoking endless space and muted oceanic waves. While there's an immersed-in-a-black-hole feel to much of the material, trace elements of sound enable the tone to steer clear of utter emptiness, as if vibrations are bouncing off objects that serve as reminders that we're not wholly alone. That's most true of the pieces comprising "Death," but that's not Schrader's sole mood, as "First Spring" creates tinkling, shimmering rows of volleying notes with a hint of melancholy mysticism. One would be hard-pressed to call any of this cave-dwelling ambience jaunty, but some mild levity is supplied by "Duke's Tune," based on a more or less random "tune" "composed" on the xylophone by "Duke" — not Duke Ellington, but an actual pig, pictured playing the xylophone in the CD booklet.

Beyond, Barry Schrader
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