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Anti-Social Music - Sings the Great American Songbook

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Artist: Anti-Social Music

Album: Sings the Great American Songbook

Label: Peacock

Review date: Nov. 29, 2005

“Oh, it’s Punk Classical,” flutist Andrea LaRose informed me. Sure – yet another group polluting the hallowed academy halls with the whims and whiles of the devil’s music and expecting me to get excited. A quick listen to her composition “Breakbeat” demonstrated to me that I was out of Naked City territory and into the 21st century. Like the vocalized drum solo on National Health’s Of Queues and Cures, it delivers what the title purports, this time rendered by solo flute. It’s a kind of theme and variation with the stereotypical breaks immediately recognizable in a post-Varese tonal context, complete with huge pitch leaps, flutter-tonguing and a few Roland Kirk vocalizations thrown in for good measure, not to mention that it bristles with energy.

I was enthralled, and the rest of the disc didn’t disappoint. For those of us who’ve studied classical music and its history seriously, there’s a lot here that’s just plain fun. “Fracture II” by Pat Muchmore is one of the few pieces I’ve heard recently that truly shocked me. Its spacious grand romantic piano-laden opening convinced me to fasten my seatbelt, as I was entering the Sorabji zone, when a sudden and impeccably timed blast of distorto guitar hurled me unceremoniously into the high-energy folk-driven string deconstructions of Bartok or Univers Zero! The hipness continues with excerpts that can only be described as American Folk, sporting passionately understated vocalizations with appropriately chordal guitar accompaniment. In fact, this is one of the only times that a piece of music that blends “metal” guitar and orchestral timbres actually works, let alone the well-placed processed loops, frantic genre and dynamic juxtapositions that kept me on my toes throughout.

Beyond classical music, Anti-Social Music proves itself able to cope with recorded music’s long pan-global history with ease and post-modern creativity, as in the second movement of “Songs of Zen, love and Longing.” When the ’70s punk scene is referenced, the group comes as close as it can to busting out the power chords! In fact, there are too many references of all sorts to begin a catalog, from the slow atonal burn of late Scriabin to some piquantly charming Ivesian miniatures. If musicologist Leonard Ratner is correct that Mozart was being rhetorically referential in his chamber music, then this 11-piece NY collective is on the right track with a brilliant debut disc of adventurous classical music.

By Marc Medwin

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