Press Reviews for Tessellatum
- Vents Magazine
- A Closer Listen
- The New York Times
- Rolling Stone
- The Line of Best Fit
Composed by Donnacha Dennehy and performed on viola by Nadia Sirota and viola da gamba by Liam Byrne, Tessellatum is an impressive, sweeping work of drones and overdubbed strings.
Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy’s music is repetitive and minimalist, but he will never remind you of a bustling city street or a multi-lane highway like Philip Glass or Steve Reich. Dennehy’s repetition evokes a rushing river—everything flows endlessly around you, guided by patterns but interrupting itself everywhere you look. He doesn’t have one specific style: Some of his pieces are bright, hard, and brilliantine—like the “Bulb,” which sounds like a transcription of a heart arrhythmia. Others, like his totemic 2007 piece Grá agus Bás, gather tones into darkening clouds, like a massive storm front seen from a rooftop. But they all carry an elemental weight, suggesting creeping overgrowth and boundaries being slowly encroached.
Nadia Sirota heard Dennehy’s sprawling music and found herself drawn towards it. Over the past eight years, her own work has grown so sprawling that the honors hailing her achievements have gotten ludicrously specific: She hosts the world’s best contemporary classical music podcast and has contributed her music to over 60 albums from Björk to John Legend to Arcade Fire. Above all, she is a relentless commissioner and performer of music, and has brought forth an impressive thicket of it into existence. Her pursuit of new work is as admirable as her tenaciously good ear and her ability to throw herself bodily into the landscapes that composers bring to her.
Out of Dennehy’s and Sirota’s union arises Tessellatum, an album-length collaboration with accompanying animated visuals by Steven Mertens, an animator whose done darkly whimsical work for Regina Spektor and Dan Auerbach. Nadia Sirota plays the viola, Liam Byrne plays the viola da gamba, and between the two of them, they build up 15 tracks that swirl thickly around you. The music blends into a kind of tabula rasa, pulsing drone, a shifting mass that is meant to smudge the edges on your perception of passing time. It isn’t quite a drone, though: the 15 multi-tracks of strings played by Sirota and Byrne peel off from each other in long, moaning strands, like someone planing clean strips from a board of wood.
The album was produced by Sirota and mixed by Bedroom Community label co-founder Valgeir Sigurðsson, whose coursing music also whispers inside of this piece. Mertens’ accompanying animations focus on deep sea imagery, flashing on images of fish skeletons, fossils, floating scraps that suggest drifting phytoplankton. The viola da gamba and the viola themselves feel suspended in solution; they are both mid-range instruments, their husky timbres evocative of human voices, and hearing them twist and invert around each other, you can almost feel your feet leave the ground.
You don’t really isolate high points in a piece like this—like pointing out animal shapes in a cloud, it has changed by the time you revisit it. It also tends to lose its meaning when you don’t experience it in full. Instead, It creates one long, hypnotic moment, a fixed space for you to inhabit as variations emerge and disappear around you.
Pitchfork (August 14th 2017)
If you would like to receive news from Bedroom Community, please enter your e-mail address in the box below and press OK.
Released on 11 August 2017
Keep In Touch
Released on 30 September 2016
Released on 18 March 2013
On the web
- Find out more on Nadia Sirota’s website
- Check out Nadia Sirota’s page on Facebook
- Follow Nadia Sirota on Twitter