Michael Mantler: Folly Seeing All This (ECM 1485)

 

Michael Mantler
Folly Seeing All This

Alexander Balanescu violin
Clare Connors violin
Bill Hawkes viola
Jane Fenton cello
Michael Mantler trumpet
Rick Fenn guitar
Wolfgang Puschnig alto flute
Karen Mantler piano, voice
Dave Adams vibraphone, chimes
Jack Bruce voice
Recorded June 1992 at Angel Studios, London
Engineer: Ben T. Reese
Produced by Michael Mantler

Folly Seeing All This must have been something of a dream project for Michael Mantler. Working with the Balanescu Quartet opened up a vital portal in this phenomenal composer. The ensemble also includes guitarist Rick Fenn and a handful of talented chamber musicians. Alexander Balanescu’s unmistakable vibrato ushers us into the title piece’s shifting moods, which speak for themselves. Mantler’s trumpet pulls from this genesis a peak for every valley. Fenn draws thick sentiments with thin lines as a piano (played by Karen Mantler) rises from below the water’s surface to test the nets of time in hopes they might hold the revelations to come. Though nearly a half hour long, the music ends all too soon, imploding into a single white dwarf of energy.

News makes for an airy companion. It undulates with the tide of politics and is every bit as vocal as Mantler’s more operatic configurations. Some beautiful seashell rolls from Wolfgang Puschnig on alto flute make sense of the knotty background, where invisible talking heads are drowned by Fenn’s guitar, more insistent now in its cause. An insightful lead-in to What Is The Word. This meditation on the words of Samuel Beckett joins the voices of Karen Mantler and Jack Bruce to speak as if from within our collective ribcage, swinging from those branches of marrow and calcium with deftly slung words. Strings in the background cycle like an air raid siren in slow motion, lending finality to this brief, tender observation.

Mantler is that rare composer in whose music every instrument, every voice, rings with an equal truth. Folly Seeing All This is one of his most reflective albums to date and serves, along with Review, as an honest introduction to one of ECM’s greatest.

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