Bedroom Community

Press Reviews for Speaks Volumes

Bedroom Community from Reykjavik debuts with a debut recording of seven works by New Yorker Nico Muhly, produced by Valgeir Sigurdsson, whose work with Björk made a great impression on Muhly. In fact, the production process is such an essential ingredient in final product that you might as well see this studio album as something of a collaboration.

"These are pieces that present themselves as purely intellectual exercises, controlled by artithmetical processes rather than emotional narrative...", we read at the beginning of Daniel Johnson´s lengthy liner notes. Sounds a bit bloodless, doesn´t it? However, Nico Muhly´s art is far from dessicated.

Johnson namechecks Reich, Riley, Nancarrow, Pärt, Glass and Renaissance composer John Taverner in cataloging Muhly´s influences. What is clear is that though still only 25 years of age, he is a classic modernist (Julliard-trained) insofar as he borrows extensively from that legacy while at the same time breaking new ground.

"Clear Music" (cello, celeste and harp) is indeed invested with the clarity of ice crystals playing tag in bright moonligt. "It Goes Without Saying" lays clarinets over harmonium drones, revelling in the sheer physicality of the instruments as things - the clickety-clacking of the clarinets keys - and splatters of crunchy electronic samples. Here´s where the significance of the producer´s hand becomes so apparent; it´s like action painting for the ears.

A lilting, then frenetic pas-de-deux betwixt violin and harp (in which the former finally seems to gain the upper hand) characterizes "Honest Music". "Quiet Music" is Muhly alone at the piano for a meditative interlude before "Pillaging Music" tears the joint apart. This piece is the bull in the china shop of Speaks Volumes, a track where every kind of percussion including quite literally the kitchen pots and pans is beaten upon in a rhythmic, Glassian fashion. Unfortunately, this reviewer finds it an unwelcome guest on the programme.

On "A Hudson Cycle" Muhly´s fingers dance across the piano keys like sunlight dappling the water of the eponymous river. Wedding music for friends. He must care for them very much; brief but impressive.

The final track surpringly features the freeform cooing of Antony (of "and The Johnsons" fame) in (dis)harmony with the violin of Nadia Sirota, into which an array of instruments finally crowd in and pile on.

The music was recorded both in New York and Iceland, highlighting the contrasts that, throughout this collection, do indeed speak volumes about this aspiring composer´s breadth of vision.

Stephen Fruitman (January 31st 2007)

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Released on 25 May 2008
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Speaks Volumes
Released on 25 November 2006
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