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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Rhys Chatham - Pythagorean Dream (FOOM, 2016) ***1/2

By Paul Acquaro

Multi-instrumentalist Rhys Chatham is known for his guitar orchestra work, where he had multitudes of guitarists playing together, and from his involvement with the New York Downtown and No-Wave scene in the late 1970s. However, at the end of the aughts, he began performing solo on trumpet and incorporating live looping -- certainly a more stripped down approach than a hundred guitars at once! Most recently he has returned to guitar, also solo, also looping, and using Pythagorean tuning. The album Pythagorean Dreams is a set culled from the studio augmented with a solo trumpet performance in England.

The first two tracks were recorded live in the studio. Slight hints of the looped trumpet, then a strummed chord, and a colossal guitar build up - just one stacked atop the other. The song is drone-y and vast, like looking up at the night sky from an empty field, nothing to distract you from staring at an incredibly array of unmoving stars. The second piece adds bass, alto and C flute, and a more prominent trumpeter. There is more motion to this piece and the looping underlayment has more texture. The “bonus” piece is from a performance at Whitechapel Gallery in London, from which the intro to part one was taken. Creating chordal accompaniment via the loops, the ping-ponging trumpet work is mesmerizing.

A very interesting and hypnotic work.