Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
The reissue of Martland's second recording for Factory - an
Discophage | France | 01/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the reissue by Catalyst, a label from Bmg, of Factory 366, the second of this label's long-play CDs (there was at least a 12" CD as well) devoted to the music of Steve Martland (the original can be found, at a price, under Crossing The Border). The first was Factory 266, with Babi Yar and Drill (see my review of the Catalyst reissue Steve Martland: Babi Yar/Drill), released in 1989, which made a big splash then and established the composer's controversial reputation - not only because of his music but also because of his rock-star appearance on the disc's cover-art. This one was recorded in 1991 and released in July 1992. The notes give an extensive overview of the history of the cult and now defunct Manchester-based, mostly rock-devoted Factory label and its relation with Martland, but not much info on the works themselves, other than the basics about first performances: dates, venues and performers. There is also a rather comical blurb by Martland, by which we are made to understand that the man feels guilty of being a composer rather than having a "real" job - or rather, no job at all, as apparently everybody else from the working class in Great Britain. The reasons for his compositional stance are made clearer, I guess: bring the music to the masses, to assuage your guilt of not being part of them. Strange that composers should feel apologetic for what they are. Mathematicians never do, do they?
The pieces on the disc were composed between 1985 (American Invention) and 1991 (Crossing the Border). Crossing the Border is the longest piece on the disc (23:44), and Principia is the shortest (3:05). Martland must have a special fondness for the latter - a merry dance-like piece reminiscent of Steve Reich, based on the repetition of simple rhythmic and melodic cells - as he re-recorded it twice with his Steven Martland Band, once as part of the "Patrol" CD and then again on "Horses of Instruction" (Black Box - see my reviews), which also contains a re-make of "Re-mix", a funny, demented takeoff of Marin Marais `Sonnerie de Sainte Geneviève du Mont.
Among the three more lengthy and substantial compositions on this disc,"Crossing the Border" is written for string orchestra. Starting with a canon of rugged, slashing, fast-moving chords in the strings' high registers over a slowly moving and harmonically simple ground bass, it brings to mind the music for strings of Britten and Tippett (but without their subtlety and sound invention) as well is the kind of music written by the Goreckis, Part, Kanchelis and other neo simplistiks which seem to have swarmed the contemporary music scene in the last twenty years, but after 12:00 the piece builds up to a more typically Martlandesque pounding of chords reminiscent of (but not as rhythmically complex as) Stravinsky's Sacre. It ends with mysterious, hushed, vibrato-less dirge evocative of some medieval funeral music or Schubert's Death & the Maiden string quartet theme. The music is easy to listen to and agreeable to hear, maybe a little too much so for nourishment, but it does elicit a sense of mounting exhilaration.
"American Invention" is very typical of Martland, with its borrowings from rock & free-jazz, its pounding chords on complex, hocketing rhythms and its blend of classical and rock instruments (electric guitar and drums), recalling another master of cross-over, the German Heiner Goebbels. It produces thrilling energy and tension. And the same can be said of "Shoulder to Shoulder", in which echoes of Varèse (in its constant repetition of brassy rhythmic cells) and Stravinsky (whiffs of The soldier's Tale, the Concerto for piano and winds, the Ebony concerto for clarinet and jazz combo, as well as his later, serial pieces) can be heard.
This is good Martland disc - better, in my opinion, than the two subsequent ones: "Patrol" and "Horses of Instruction" (see above). But if you have only one, go rather for the thrilling Babi Yar/Drill (Factory/Catalyst).