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Steve Peters & Daniel Lentz - From Shelter / Los Tigres De Marte

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Artist: Steve Peters & Daniel Lentz

Album: From Shelter / Los Tigres De Marte

Label: Cold Blue

Review date: Jul. 25, 2004

The idiosyncratic Cold Blue label has taken a page from its own book lately, echoing their classic 10-inch series from the '80s by releasing EPs that offer short but satisfying gateways into the sound-worlds of selected composers.

Steve Peters is known exploring the sonics of place and the enigmas of field-recorded sound - the relationship between music and perception. From Shelter finds him working within slightly mutated variations of traditional chamber instrumentation. “Three Short Stories” offers an intertwined, overdubbed viola “duet” by Alicia Ultan. The dark-hued strings linger over arching melodies that carry the open-space lyricism and beatific atmosphere often found on Cold Blue releases. But Peters’s approach to melody and harmony here also offers the striking purity of renaissance polyphony; a rigorous attention to the effects of moving and simultaneous intervals. Indeed, behind the West Coast spaciousness of this work, there seems to lurk the mind of a composer as scientific and intellectual in approach as American progenitor Charles Ives.

“My burning skin to sleep” is a vivid, stark, and alluring lullaby. The composer’s own piano, recorded in a resonant space in such a way as to capture each high, spectral overtone as it decays in space, plays a pattern that repeats amid plenty of silent sonic space. Over and around this bell-like pattern, the over-dubbed voice of Marghreta Cordero navigates the same sorts of intertwined lines as the violas in “Three Short Stories." Cordero’s voice is electrifying, with a heart-rending vibrato on line-ending high notes, a sensuous and intimate dark-toned warmth in its lower ranges. She imbues the wordless vowels and consonants with shifting, not-quite-definable shades of emotion as the piece unfolds. Overall, the effect is as if Eno’s seminal “2/1” from Music for Airports were to be recreated, vested with the passion, soul, and human emotion that Eno so carefully chose to avoid in his early ambient music.

Daniel Lentz’s work, with its sparkle and pulse, has long evinced hallmarks of the minimalist style. But Lentz has often brought a glossy, Pop Art-Southern California palette of colors to his work. Los Tigres de Marte is in many ways a brief clarinet concerto for the tonal virtuosity of Marty Walker, and, perhaps in homage to the greatest clarinet concerto of all time, Lentz builds Mozartean orchestrations around Walker’s warm, vocal tone. Only Lentz filters Mozart through Hollywood scores and electronic sound design, with the liquid playfulness of Debussy; a recurring, distant, keening portamento on synthesizer haunts the melodic score. “Los Tigres de Marte” seems to be about memory and nostalgia, and thus it’s perhaps fitting that the piece ends by fading slowly into an all-suffusing haze of reverberation. With its unashamed melodic richness unfolding within an alternation of passages both sun-streaked and shadowed, “Los Tigres de Marte” is an engaging and powerful work that seems to reveal new facets with each encounter.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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