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Struggle For Pleasure - EP

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Album Review

The fourth release by Belgian post-minimalist composer Wim Mertens, 1983's Struggle for Pleasure, is a brief EP's worth of, as the composer puts it, "petite musique de chambre." It sounds a bit stuffy, but it's indicative of Mertens' talent that one of these six tracks, the hauntingly beautiful piano instrumental "Close Cover," actually became a hit on the continent when it was released as a single. Although "Close Cover" is the clear highlight of Struggle for Pleasure, the other five tracks are beautifully arranged pieces of modern chamber music. Although Mertens is clearly heavily influenced by American minimalist composers — the title track and "Gentleman of Leisure" are unalloyed Philip Glass homages — he brings his own brilliant compositional sense and a genuine gift for unexpected arrangements to these pieces. The opening "Tourtour," for soprano saxophone and harp, brings entirely unexpected textures out of both instruments, and "Salernes" keeps from sounding too much like early Terry Riley through the unexpected start-stop motif that reappears throughout the piece. Mertens, who began composing and recording at the age of 28, has the melodic sensibility of someone who grew up not only with the modern classical tradition, but with jazz and pop as well. Indeed, Mertens' piano style on "Close Cover" recalls the fragmented impressionism of Bill Evans. As a result, his music is accessible to more listeners than just the die-hard 20th century classical crowd, making the album title considerably less descriptive than it might otherwise be. Like all of Mertens' early releases, Struggle for Pleasure was originally released under the group name Soft Verdict and reissued under Mertens' own name in the late '80s.

Biography

Born: 14 May 1953

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

This Belgian composer is not well-known among U.S. audiences, although he has made several highly regarded appearances at the New Music America festivals. In Spain, however, where he was the subject of a major television special, he is a new-music celebrity. Mertens' style employs mesmerizing minimalist techniques with a sense of the romantic that appeals to both serious music aficionados and more mainstream...
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Struggle For Pleasure - EP, Wim Mertens
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