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Ryan Teague - Six Preludes

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Artist: Ryan Teague

Album: Six Preludes

Label: Type

Review date: Jul. 11, 2005

Classical composers spend much of their careers developing the architecture of forms: the etude, the quartet, the sonata, the symphony. Electronic composers expend their energy sculpting the properties of individual sounds: square waves, sine waves, ring modulation, tape delay, phasing. Cambridge, UK-based Ryan Teague divides his time merging these two approaches. On Six Preludes he gracefully synthesizes extended themes with minute sound treatments, clarinet, violin and operatic vocals with digital pulsations, glitches and synth-bass, the dreamy melodicism of Claude Debussy and Arvo Pärt with the austere drift of Brian Eno and Arve Henriksen.

Teague has chosen his form well - the prelude being a loosely defined structure that either introduces a larger work, or states a short, self-contained theme - avoiding the stumbles of overwrought ambition. The six pieces here are compact, lush and slippery. "Prelude I" begins with a violin, gliding in tone but vigorous in attack. The melody rings clear for a few precious moments, until a soft flicker alerts you to a machine presence. On "Prelude II," a creeping theme intoned by violin and clarinet warily circles around encroaching crackles and fluttering guitar, the movement of the two creating a not unpleasant sea-sick spiralling.

What most strikes a listener about Six Preludes is how Teague erases any sense of boundary between sounds. The first half of "Prelude IV" could fit with anything released on Mille Plateaux. As fragments of piano give way to insistent needles of static, a detached, muted pulse emerges, helped along by rubs of bass. At the heart of "Prelude III" is melodic/rhythmic motif made by a subtle blend of tuned drum and marimba. The motif pulls along trails of jagged strings, chiming piano chords and menacing rasps and beeps. When Teague removes the motif, it remains etched on your eardrums, even as the spindles of background ambience unravel into a few tattered threads of distortion. In other hands these shifts might be abrupt, but in Teague's they are seamless.

The microscopic texture of these pieces might be hard to perceive in a concert hall, meaning Teague sits a bit more on the electronic side of the fence. Instead, headphone listening and absolute quiet are recommended.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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