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Album Review

Bill Ryan's idea is rather simple: to write pieces using a single motif that will slowly evolve as it is being repeated over and over. Of course, it is one of the concepts at the heart of American minimalism (Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley's music, to mention but three). But Billband spins the idea on its head, giving it a funky, down-to-earth feel and, in the process, revamping it the same way L'Infonie had reinvented Riley's "In C" in the early '70s by adding a rock rhythm section to it. This kind of music relies on two basic principles in order to be successful: the listener must have the impression that the piece ends the way it started, even though it does not (the motif has gone through a number of subtle transformations that have pushed it some distance from its starting point); and the piece must not become tiresome or boring because of the process involved. Blurred succeeds on both counts. Violin (Todd Reynolds), trumpet (Wayne DuMaine), saxophone (Taimur Sullivan), bass clarinet (Michael Lowenstern), piano (Steve Gosling), and drums (David Cosslin) brush a wide sound palette with ties to contemporary chamber music and funk-rock. "Original Blend" and "Capacity 49" follow the procedure described above: repeated motifs gradually modified and developed, with arrangements being elegantly bounced around the instrumentation. The use of a bridge section adds some spice to the proceedings. "Blurred" ditches the drums to focus on more aerial patterns, reminiscent of the composers revolving around the West Coast-based Cold Blue label (Jim Fox, Steve Peters, Michael Jon Fink, etc.), while the closer, "Drive," uses a longer, more complex motif (with verse/chorus structure) and comes back to a hard-thumping track, even adding a disco touch. The music grooves on easily, hiding well its academic concepts under its beats. The recording may be a little thin for a rock album (although that may have to do with the bass clarinet being the only low-register instrument in the mix) and ends too soon (after 32 minutes), but it offers an entertaining listen and manages to make its crossover proposal convincing. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Blurred, Billband
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