Michael Laurello: Rose
Ravello Records

Like many a young composer today, Michael Laurello isn't beholden to any single tradition or genre. As one would expect from someone who studied composition at Yale and holds degrees from Tufts University and Berklee College of Music, Laurello's music has strong ties to Western classical music, but elements of electronic music, classical minimalism, electro-acoustic, and progressive rock surface, too. What makes his debut Ravello Records release Rose so satisfying is that Laurello's fusion of all such elements sounds truly fresh and inspired. His is an elegantly interwoven music that naturally arises out of that polyglot blend as opposed to being some rote paint-by-numbers exercise.

That Steve Reich constitutes part of Laurello's DNA is intimated by the swinging patterns executed using prepared steel-string acoustic guitar and electronics in “Tell Hope Everything You Hear”; while the piece stakes out its own distinct territory, it's hard not to hear Reich's Electric Counterpoint as a kindred spirit. Intricate, electronically treated guitar melodies overlap in rhythmically insistent formations for an unfussy four minutes, before Laurello gives “Big Things” a more elaborate presentation by blending electric guitar, electric bass, piano, vibraphone, and modified drum kit into a kinetic, polyrhythmic whole, the guitar in this case lending the material a quality reminiscent of a Steve Mackey production and the bold performance sonically kin to one the Bang On A Can All-Stars might give. With Doug Perry and Sam Suggs respectively guesting on vibraphone and electric bass, an intricate polyweave is again generated, though this time one characterized by stop-start rhythms and pronounced timbral contrasts between the guitars and mallet instruments; adding to the piece's appeal is a restrained central episode that complements the piano and guitar with bowed vibraphone textures.

The aggressive title track revisits the minimalism-inflected thrust of “Tell Hope Everything You Hear,” though this time Laurello generates the material's lustrous, high-velocity flutter with clavinet, synthesizer, and electronics. A tribute to Conlon Nancarrow, “Embers” is, not surprisingly, equally intricate and multi-layered. Having recorded (and manipulated) sounds of Fender Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, analog synthesizer, found object percussion, and toy piano (among others), Laurello proceeded to assemble the pieces into an electro-acoustic construction that sees each layer cued to a a different tempo. Interestingly, however, the result ends up suggesting a stronger tie to the music of Raster-Noton's Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto) than anything by Nancarrow.

Adding significantly to Rose's appeal is its concision. Four settings are presented on a recording lasting slightly less than thirty minutes, and the album's brevity leaves the listener eager to hear more of its creator's music.

September 2016