DESSNER St Carolyn by the Sea GREENWOOD Suite from 'There Will be Blood'
The incidence of composers at home in both classical and rock genres is hardly a recent phenomenon, yet the ease with which numerous present-day figures on both sides of the Atlantic constantly make the transition renders this categorisation all but pointless. One such is Richard Reed Parry from Canadian band Arcade Fire, while another is Bryce Dessner – guitarist with US band The National, whose visceral and distinctive brand of ‘cosmic Americana’ is evident throughout the three orchestral works heard on this disc.
With its inspiration in Jack Kerouac’s novel Big Sur, St Carolyn by the Sea suffuses its harmonic richness with a long-term rhythmic momentum – minimalist in style if not in substance – redolent of Reich’s brief involvement with orchestral writing in the 1980s. Lachrymae draws on the piece of that name by Dowland, though works for strings by Britten and Bartók are also points of reference behind a piece whose gradual intensifying of mood does not undermine its essential poise. Most arresting here is Raphael, where Dessner’s electric lead – lucid and scintillating by turn – is the focal point across music whose increasingly combative manner is tellingly curtailed prior to a speculative close.
Music such as this demands a committed and focused response, which it receives from the Copenhagen forces under the expert direction of André de Ridder. The suite from Jonny Greenwood’s Academy-nominated score to There Will Be Blood is no mere fill-up. Its six movements draw on those salient qualities of the original soundtrack (available on Nonesuch), pointing up the often plangent timbral and textural contrasts which make the Radiohead guitarist’s music apposite to Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic fable of disillusion. Both composers benefit from suitably ‘wide-screen’ sound, setting the seal on a release that suggests DG has at last tapped a potent seam in today’s alternative new music scene.