Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pat Metheny - The Orchestrion Project (Nonesuch, 2013)

Guitarist and conceptualist Pat Metheny returns to his “Orchestrion” format, controlling a wide variety of musical instruments via solenoids and pneumatics, via guitar commands as well as computer controls. It makes for quite a fascinating solo album when one musician is able to create a piece of music by improvising a core setting and then adding layer upon layer of instruments and finally using his guitar, improvising over it all. After performing a large number of concerts in this setting, Metheny has released a DVD of the Orcrestion and this double CD set. The music covers a wide range of material from Pat Metheny Group style lyricism, to ballads and tracks with a more intense improvisational component. "Improvisation 1" and "Improvisation 2" show the project at its best, where the backing is open and allows Metheny to improvise in a very forceful and direct manner. "Orchestrion" is the centerpiece do the album, a fifteen minute suite like construction anchoring the end of disc one. Building on layer upon layer of percussion, keyboard and bass allows Metheny to finally move over and around this construction on his guitar while at the same time directing and positioning the backing and conceptual nature of the music. His approach to ballads on the album is exemplified by "Antonia" and "Soul Search" with the former developing the Achilles heel of projects like this, in which the layers and strata of the music built one atop the other begin to become a little fussy, and stifle the natural sense of breathing that would allow a slower paced piece of music to develop naturally. The latter track works a little bit better, reducing the accompaniment to spare bass and drums. The was certainly an interesting project, and the technology is fascinating. Some good and memorable music was made, but taking the element of human interaction out of the equation seems to make the whole less than the sum of its parts. The Orchestrion Project - amazon.com

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