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Monday, January 9, 2023

Thanos Chrysakis, Jason Alder – Milieu Interior (Aural Terrains, 2022)

By Nick Ostrum

Milieu Interior is the latest collaboration between composer and sound artist Thanos Chrysakis and clarinetist Jason Alder. Actually, Chrysakis has been homing in on composing for the clarinet over the last few years, as Eyal covered here . Milieu Interior is right in line with that tradition. Although Alder’s instruments range from standard to bass to contrabass clarinets, he often soars, rather than relishes in the deep, droning doldrums. Tones waft across the aural plain like a soft breeze on a fall evening, calm and at least temporarily comforting, but serving likewise as a harbinger of a much colder winter.

The mood is intimate and bucolic, but always falls back toward an off-balanced center that hints at instability. Trills overlay stretched melodies. Breaths and clicks of keys are audible, as are adjustments in embouchure that become as much of the music as the tones expelled from the clarinet’s bell. So are the resonances (that sometimes sound like echoes), which fill out the potential background void. Some of these embellishments seem to come from Chrysakis’ work in production though some come directly from Alder, as he bends and decays notes to create a sense of faded, enveloping polyphony.

Jason Alder is clearly a clarinetist to be reckoned with. He might not attack like others, but he can breathe a cavernous huff and screech when he needs to. Most often, however, his lines meander slowly and bend gently but deliberately. Thanos Chrysakis, moreover, has some serious compositional chops. All of the music on this recording is meticulously rendered into notation and performed by Alder in close collaboration with Chrysakis. The fact that this is so composed is especially notable given how flexible and freely floating much of this sounds.

Chrysakis has referred to Milieu Interior as exploring the “vistas of sound’s interiority.” In less poetic terms, the album falls somewhere between the romantic end of contemporary classical and a pared-down EAI attention to color and texture. The music is dynamic, but in effect rather than volume or pitch aberrations. It develops subtly but unpredictably, which, again, makes the composed nature of these pieces pleasantly surprising.

Milieu Interior is available through Bandcamp or directly from Aural Terrains.