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Chris Dench ik(s)land[s]

1 Peter Neville, percussion/ ELISION/ Sandro Gorli, conductor driftglass 10'15

2 Carl Rosman, clarinet/ Peter Neville, percussion funk 10'08

3 Carl Rosman, clarinet ruins within 10'22

4 Deborah Kayser, mezzo-soprano/ ELISION/ Carl Rosman, conductor ik(s)land[s] 20'26

5 Stephen Robinson, oboe e'/meth 10'34

6 Deborah Kayser, mezzo-soprano/ ELISION/ Franck Ollu, conductor the blinding access of the grace of flesh 11'03

NMC D089 73 mins

As the titles suggest, this is difficult music, which needs a specialist reviewer to do it justice - volunteers, please!

Click on the link for background information about this English composer, b.1953 and regularly played in London during the '80s, now expatriate in Australia.

Quoting from other writers, these are "intricate highly complex scores that seemed to be carrying on the tradition that composers such as Ferneyhough had established out of the wreckage of total serialism" (The Guardian). Chris Dench addresses wide-ranging extra-musical influences - from Angela Carter and Ludwig Wittgenstein to Thomas Dolby; "the glittering mosaic of driftglass contrasts with funk, a punchy duet for bass clarinet and percussion; while the two most substantial pieces on the disc - the blinding access of the grace of flesh and ik(s)land[s] itself - both set the calligrammatic poetry of berni m janssen".

The booklet is graced with inscrutable texts which confirm the intricacy and complexity of Dench's musical thinking, but do little to help the 'ordinary' listener; perhaps the CD is only meant for the exclusive 'complexity new music' fraternity? It is however full of interesting sounds and quite compelling to hear. The items featuring demanding solos for clarinet & oboe, and those with mezzo-soprano Deborah Kayser, may be the best way in.

The CD is one for intrepid explorers; hear excerpts from each of the tracks for yourselves, far the best way! Recording quality fine, and everyone sounds committed to the task; those who were at the sessions must be the best judge of their accuracy to the composer's intentions and to the scores.

© Peter Grahame Woolf