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Balanescu Quartet

℗ 1994 Mute Records STUMM 124

℗ 2012 barin.livejournal.com BR LLH 77186

Balanescu Quartet • 1994 • Luminitza

Following its acclaimed reworking of Kraftwerk songs with an all-original collection of pieces let the quartet show off its deservedly acclaimed abilities to a new audience who might not have otherwise encountered the work of Michael Nyman's favorite interpreters. Violinist Claire Connors collaborates on a number of the selections with Balanescu, while writing three shorter songs herself (Balanescu's only solo contribution is the title track). She also plays keyboards and handles production duties, doing a fine job at both. Longtime Mute house engineer Paul Kendall assists on percussion sequencing, while Balanescu also contributes clipped spoken-word performances at various points. The compositions unsurprisingly veer toward the minimal, but far from simply aping the likes of Nyman or Philip Glass they steer their own odd little courses. The opening cut, 'East,' serves as a good start, but things really kick in with 'Democracy,' on which Balanescu and Connors trace a series of high figures while violist Andy Parker and cellist Nick Cooper maintain the rhythm. Balanescu delivers his accented vocals almost as a semi-authority figure, lending the whole piece the queasy quality of a propaganda broadcast or abstract protest: Lines like 'We want to change the name, so we can start all over again' are actually quite pithy and slightly chilling in context. Balanescu's lyrical fragments snake through the slow build of 'Still With Me' like disconnected radio transmissions, while his is-it-ironic-or-not? meditation on 'Revolution' ('At last something exciting to watch on telly') fits perfectly with the rough rhythm bursts of static and the quartet's sudden, quick fills. The title track, a 16-minute-long movement without any lyrics, is both tense and atmospherically relaxed at the same time, while the slow 'Mother' ends the album on a quiet, meditative note.

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