Marvin Ayres: Circadian Rhythms
A natural complement to 2014's Ultradian Rhythms, Circadian Rhythms again showcases the considerable artistry of British composer Marvin Ayres. The forty-six-minute recording sees the versatile multi-instrumentalist using violin, viola, cello, double bass, piano, and voice to generate a multi-dimensional soundworld that draws upon multiple traditions, classical minimalism and ambient among them, without ever limiting itself to one in particular. While names such as Reich, Gorecki, and Part might conceivably come to mind as Circadian Rhythms plays, the album ultimately possesses no one's signature more than Ayre's.
Six compositions appear on the album, each a luscious, symphonic self-portrait and self-contained argument for Ayre's gifts as a composer and musician. Initially titled “Snow Poem” in keeping with an arpeggiated piano-based sequence suggestive of white flakes falling against a dark night backdrop, “Anthropomorphic” immediately establishes the multi-layered density of Ayres' sound universe. Swirling layers of piano patterns cascade to dazzling effect until multiple string instruments enter to impose stability and order, the material eventually recasting itself as a lulling meditation capable of pulling the listener into its vortex. Rarely does an instrument extricate itself from the mass (the double bass resonating through the undergrowth of “Pre-Tempest” is one exception); instead, instrument sounds typically form a complex, interactive latticework so dense it verges on opaque.
Following that intense opener, the intensity level subsides for the ambient-drone rumination “Berceuse,” though it too gradually expands in size and volume. “Secular Reveries” initially assumes the form of a vocal meditation when Ayres' wordless, mantra-like expressions dominate the aural space, but piano and string textures surface to flesh out the arrangement with non-vocal counterpoint. At album's end, “Circadian Rhythms” returns us to the shimmering, piano-centric soundworld of “Anthropomorphic” to send us away from the recording on a magisterial wave.
Given the album title, it's not surprising that cyclical rhythms arise repeatedly on the album, their swirl emblematic of natural patterns and bodily processes, and such rhythmic treatments understandably amplify the music's dream-like quality; never is that more audible than during “The Circling Shimmer,” an aptly titled foray whose ambient-drone incandescence is more than a little bit hypnotic. Listening to such a production, it's obvious that though minimalism in its various forms might have influenced Ayres, it would be more accurate to label Circadian Rhythms maximalism.