ALBUM REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona



Sebastian Reynolds with Anne Müller and Alex Stolze ‘Solo Collective Part Two’
(Nonostar Records) 7th June 2019


Gathered together once more in union under the Solo Collective title, the Anglo-German musical partnership of virtuoso performers and composers Sebastian Reynolds, Anne Müller and Alex Stolze is back with a second volume of evocative neo-classical stirrings and soundscapes.

Part One of this interconnecting project shared the material evenly between the trio, with each artist represented by two of their own original tracks, rearranged and fashioned to accommodate their new foils. This time around the compositions on Part Two are all attributed to Reynolds. Re-performed the Oxford polymath’s selection of both back catalogue and, until now, yet to be fully realized tracks are transformed with the most delicate and tactile of touches. Well, mostly that is until you reach the centerpiece (as it were), the live recorded performance of ‘Ripeness Is All’; a disorientating vision of harrowing confusion that feeds a narration of the sobering death of Snowden passage from Joseph Heller’s iconic tragic-comedy Catch-22, through a JG Ballard meets Philip K. Dick dystopia. Literary gold, Heller’s WWII bomber crew are uprooted and transported to a haunting polygon warning signal blazed soundtrack that borders on Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle. As dark and jarring as it is – and it is the most discordant, violent composition on this and the previous volume by a mile – ‘Ripeness Is All’ sits well with the more serene and beautifully classical lamenting explorations and mood pieces. It’s also the most glaring example of digital effects manipulation on an album that is intentionally built around Reynolds concept of blurring the boundaries between instrumental, more natural, performance and digital processing: Part Two being an album that explores Reynolds various working methods, each track demonstrating this theme, whether that’s a performance or series of performances later transformed and re-edited in the studio, or fragments of sound stitched together to form a coherent soundscape collage.

Talking of a certain calculated ambiguity, the homemade concrete recordings that make up the ghostly sounding ‘Midenhall’ obscure the source material well, with only the piano and clock-like chimes acting the part of a recognizable guide in a vapour of oscillations, speed shift effects and supernatural atmospherics.

The deft quivery resonance of Reynolds two foils can be heard more distinctly on the remainder of this album. The waning and pizzicato plucks of Müller’s cello and Stolze’s violin, for instance, can be heard on the achingly beautiful Oriental-evocative opening suite ‘One Year On’, and even on the amorphous-sounding plaintive ‘For Hazel’ – a track that molds a number of performances and recordings from various locations and time to produce an ethereal lament. Tender throughout, both add refined sighing articulation and emotion to Reynolds mostly piano-centric arrangements: subtle but integral, especially on the elegantly filmic and moving ‘Holy Island’; a song that has become a sort of standard for the trio, this being the second version of the original scenic classical wash to appear on the project’s moiety of albums.

A change in scope with the emphasis shifted towards Reynolds music and techniques, Part Two is still a group effort (an even greater extended cast of enablers are credited in the album’s liner notes) even if those contributions are intentionally more blurred this time around. Released on Stolze’s brilliant burgeoning Nonostar label, this latest volume can be seen as a showcase for three of the most interesting and talented artist-composer performers of the contemporary classical and experimental electronic music scenes in Europe – though arguably all three straddle an eclectic field of styles both traditional (the Eastern Jewish music of Klezmer for one, the influence of which permeates the songs ‘By The Tower’ and ‘At Nightfall’) and new.

Superb in every way, the triumvirate of Reynolds, Müller and Stolze in any form can’t be recommended enough by me (the previous volume even made this blog’s albums of the year features). And Part Two is another essential considered and aspiring work from the trio.


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