Marvin Ayres: Eccentric Deliquescence

Marvin Ayres has acquired something rare in an age where pre-sets and digital softwares are so ubiquitous and commonly-used: a unique voice. Certainly nothing else out there sounds quite like Eccentric Deliquescence, due firstly to the acoustic instruments Ayres works with, namely cello, violin, viola, piano, and voice, and secondly to what he does with those sounds. Largely eschewing the linear conventions of classical compositional form, Ayres instead assembles his acoustic materials into multi-tiered blocks of sound—the emphasis thereby more vertical than horizontal. His own label, “ambient orchestral minimalism,” isn't inaccurate—there's no denying his music sits poised at the intersection of electronic ambient and classical music—but, like labels in general, the description is ultimately convenient but incomplete.

In the beautiful settings “Androgynous Weave” and “I Wish I Was The Sky,” multiple layers of bowed and plucked strings, sometimes augmented by bright piano patterns and chant-like vocalizing, blend into entrancing masses of melismatic and mournful character. Other pieces are vocal-centered, with Ayres weaving his voice into Renaissance-styled choral polyphony (the traditional “The Bark That Is Bearing”). There are also solo pieces (the lovely cello setting “Harold”) where his command of the instrument is fully displayed. “Forever Is Now” weaves cascading loops of mournful string melodies with his own deep whisper and wordless vocalizing while the album's greatest electronic impact emerges in the blurry, trance-inducing swarm of “Neurasthenia.” “Tail Piece” provides a placid ambient interlude with the subsequent “Insomnolence” a disturbed and nightmarish counterpart. The album's sole miscue, “Durdy,” ends the album with a screaming string-generated snarl that's too greatly out of sync with the rest of the album and has more in common with Jimi Hendrix's “The Star Spangled Banner” than a Bach chorale—thankfully the piece is mercifully short at two minutes. A future edition of the album would be better with it omitted.

Incidentally, the hour-long Eccentric Deliquescence is hardly the first recording he's issued. Ayres attracted attention with Cellosphere when it was issued by Mille Plateaux sub-label Ritornell in 1999, and followed it up with Neptune, Sensory (DVD), Scape, and Cycle. Before establishing himself as a solo artist, Ayres was a founding member of The Government and contributed to bands such as Culture Club, Simply Red, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Prefab Sprout during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Today, he complements his focus on solo projects with the group Mask which also features Sonja Kristina (ex-Curved Air). Ayres titles one of the Eccentric Deliquescence pieces “Do You Hear Me Now?” Yes, we certainly do.

February 2009