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Album Review

If Moby ever collaborated with John Adams, the results would possibly sound something like John Howell Morrison's Hard Weather Makes Good Wood. The 18-minute title track, for string quartet (the Intergalactic Contemporary Ensemble, who have their own releases on Innova) and tape, blends ideas that recall both Adams' Shaker Loops and the kind of found sound and live mixing ideas that Martin Swope pioneered in Mission of Burma and Birdsongs of the Mesozoic; fragmented string quartet tape loops encroach upon the live quartet's performance, at times almost overpowering it, creating a disorienting but ultimately fascinating sound. On the shorter pieces that make up the rest of the album, other electronic elements merge seamlessly with the strings and Maria Jette's soprano vocals, yet at the same time, Morrison's music sounds as if it's based on the folk and blues of his native North Carolina, giving these pieces an earthy soulfulness that keeps them from the cold, clinical quality of many contemporary composers. Although Morrison's music bears little resemblance, the overall effect recalls a contemporary Southern version of Charles Ives' New England-bred modernity.

Morrison, John Howell: Hard Weather Makes Good Wood, John Howell Morrison
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