Thursday, August 11, 2011

Michael Gordon's Timber

Michael Gordon
Slagwerk Den Haag
Cantaloupe Music

For his latest recording for the Cantaloupe imprint, Michael Gordon chose an unusual and cohesively elemental instrumental palette. The percussionists of Slagwerk Den Haag use only one kind of instrument: simantras - 2"X4"s - carved to different sizes to correspondingly vary the indefinite pitch and timbre. Given this winnowed orchestration, one might imagine that the results are monochromatic. Timber is anything but.

Instead, listeners are treated to an astonishing array of playing techniques, from a pitter patter of ricocheting attacks resembling rain fall to passages that accelerate and slow down to thunderous unison thwacks. Gordon's penchant for polyrhythms and rhythmic canons keeps the musical textures varied and buoys a fascinating narrative that remains instense throughout the piece's fifty-five minute long duration.

Not only is this release musically pleasing, it's easily one of the coolest packaging designs for a CD we've seen in a while. Instead of a jewel case, the CD and liner notes are packed in a wooden box -that weighs about a pound! Seeing performance details carved into the side of a wooden box is much for aesthetically pleasing and, I'd imagine, environmentally friendly, than plastic tray inserts.

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