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Rick Cox - Fade

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Artist: Rick Cox

Album: Fade

Label: Cold Blue

Review date: May. 11, 2005

One reason so many Cold Blue recordings are so good is that they feature production far better than classical music listeners are accustomed to hearing. Most recordings of chamber music, no matter how good they sound, are just documents of music written for the stage rather than the studio. Chamber music composers almost never adjust their scores to adapt to studio environments, so what musicians play in a piece in its onstage premiere is exactly what they play in the studio. Recordings of classical music are typically treated as documents rather than creative works in themselves.

There are some exceptions, such as the ECM label, Michael Gordon’s otherwise not particularly noteworthy Weather and, now, the Cold Blue label. Rick Cox’s Fade is one of a number of Cold Blue releases (including Jim Fox’s The City the Wind Swept Away, Michael Jon Fink’s A Temperament For Angels and Chas Smith’s fantastic An Hour Out of Desert Center) that feature beautiful and direct production that perfectly suits the composers’ careful post-minimalism. On Fade, Thomas Newman’s tonal piano chords ring out for what seems like minutes, while Cox’s electric guitar and Peter Freeman’s bass and electronics emit sustained textures that swirl around the piano.

Like many other Cold Blue records, Fade is minimalist in that it clearly comes from the classical tradition and features a relatively small number of musical materials. It is post-minimalist in that it doesn’t include many of the usual features of the early minimalism of Philip Glass or Steve Reich, such as phasing (in which one or more musical phrases winds around another, always aligning at different points) or a steady beat. Instead, Cox prefers to savor the tone quality of each sound, and the result is an amorphous quality that could almost be described as ambient or atmospheric. This music sounds great when listening in headphones before you fall asleep; unlike much classical music, it’s not exclusively for the classroom or the concert hall.

In fact, the closest point of reference for Fade isn’t a piece of classical music. It’s Brian Eno’s Music For Airports. Fade is the more dramatic of the two pieces, but both feature sustained sounds wrapped around pretty, slow-moving piano parts. Fade is a worthy addition to Cold Blue’s recent series of EP-length releases.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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