Christopher Tignor - "Core Memory Unwound (excerpt)" (Core Memory Unwound)
Slow Six – composer and violinist Christopher Tignor’s elegantly bloated chamber music ensemble – is sometimes billed as post-rock, which seems puzzling, given that Slow Six sounds nothing like anything presently associated with the term. In light of Simon Reynolds’s original coinage, though, which was all about “using rock instrumentation for non-rock purposes,” the peg makes surprising sense. Tignor is supremely interested in picking apart and gathering together, teasing out strands that don’t pay off right away, using deceptively elemental means to do so. To talk about rock in his case is to miss the point, but, if you buy that the thing rock had to outgrow in order to become posterior to itself was immediacy, Tignor’s approach to “psycho-acoustic space” isn’t so different in shape or spirit from Brian Eno’s.
Core Memory Unwound offers four compositions for piano and violin, with a high-concept live remix of each, made using Tignor’s own sampling and sequencing software. The originals are slow and deliberate, inertia contests between damp piano chords and long, wispy violin lines. Silence hangs heavy, at times oppressively. The mood varies, ultimately fanning out to an estimable breadth: “Meeting in a Colored Shadow 1” on the calm, linear side; “Cathedral, Pt. 1,” which introduces its themes with all the smoothness of a drunk struggling to regain composure, on the other.
The remixes, which drown their sources in echo and delay and leave only the smallest patterns afloat, are the payoff. Tignor’s software palette includes some decidedly cheesy effects—see “Left in Fragments”—but his sense of abstraction is trustworthy, and his self-refashionings are neither obvious nor overly impressionistic. The violin in the stunning “Last Nights on Eagle Street” becomes a tidal drone laid over a crisp piano motif; the title track borrows Slow Six’s conception of rhythm as little more than melodic repetition, then pushes it down into the tonal fabric of “Colored Shadow 1,” as deep as it will go.
To his credit, Tignor lets the themes of most pieces migrate beyond their borders, lending Core Memory Unwound a sort of fluid uniformity from afar. Closer to the surface, its discrete moments often feel superfluous—particularly in the unadorned originals, which, despite a few affecting passages, seem designed more to provide rewarding remix fodder than to exist independently. Which is fine coming from a composer invested in process over product. In displaying the monument and the scaffolding at the same time, Tignor leaves the object of your appreciation as a tossup between pop immediacy and whatever actually comes after it.