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Album Review

Guitarist Nick Didkovsky and his Doctor Nerve septet are joined by the Sirius String Quartet on the CD Ereia. An ambitious and largely successful undertaking, "Ereia" is presented as a single work, yet Didkovsky's composition is perhaps best considered as three separate pieces given the general lack of continuity among the movements. The brief first movement is performed by string quartet alone (with a bit of hand clapping during the initial, folk-influenced segment "She Look He Spit"). Much of the first movement is performed in the fortissimo range (this is a Doctor Nerve CD after all!), although quieter, surprisingly lyrical moments contrast beautifully with the expected passages of agitated counterpoint and escalating tension. Recorded live in 1997 at the annual new music festival in Victoriaville, Quebec, the 20-minute second movement "For Being Nice to the Wrong People" is performed by Doctor Nerve and the Sirius String Quartet together. The transition from the first movement's comparatively mild string quartet to the full ensemble is abrupt and jarring to say the least. The aural space sometimes clears enough to provide room for small groupings or individual musicians to make effective statements. "Ereia"'s cacophonous second movement ends as abruptly as it began, and the transition between movements is again striking. The final movement, filled with sharp rhythms, bold counterpoint, and impassioned soloing, is a worthy coup de grâce. Amidst the highly scored complexities, trumpeter Rob Henke and violinist Joyce Hammann are provided opportunities to display their soloing prowess over tense, fractured vamps. The solo spot is finally handed over to Didkovsky on guitar and he goes to town with white-hot abandon. Ereia ends with a coda featuring wonderful trumpet from Henke and a dramatic ensemble buildup of almost orchestral proportions. Like many of the passages in Ereia, the finale demonstrates that Didkovsky is a man with serious artistic ambitions. But the guitarist/composer's full-throttle soloing suggests that he remains a rocker at heart. Even the presence of a string quartet does not constrain his warp-speed avant metal sensibilities.

Ereia, Doctor Nerve & The Sirius String Quartet
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