Poppy Nogood: Mood Paintings
Preserved Sound

Mood paintings they are and powerful ones, too. The thirty-eight-minute release, Poppy Nogood's second album for Preserved Sound and his follow-up to Music for Mourning, presents four settings crafted by the New York composer that draw for inspiration from figures such as William Basinski, Lawrence English, Pauline Oliveros, and Gustav Mahler. Pitched as a “self-portrait in four parts,” the engrossing set runs the emotional gamut from ecstasy and hope to turmoil and longing.

Operating in full multi-instrumentalist mode, Nogood is credited with violin, piano, electric and bass guitars, vibraphone, synthesizers, and percussion; it's not a wholly solo affair, though, as cellist Alex Chong, clarinetist Will Gottsegen, and oboist Eron Smith make contributions, too. As varied as Nogood's instruments are on the release, it's his violin playing that gives the material its individuating character, even if he's hardly the only artist tilling the electronic-classical fields with strings (Field Rotation, Aaron Martin, and Christopher Tignor are just a few of the other names that spring to mind).

A title such as “The Light Hits You Eyes_I Blink” won't win Nogood any literacy awards, but the detail matters less when the meditative opener is so strong. Following an ambient-drone intro, the piece slowly blossoms when shuddering strings extricate themselves from the shimmering electronic undertow. During a piano-centric episode, said strings erupt into a beehive-like swarm, an effect Nogood exploits more than once on the recording. Chong, Smith, and Gottsegen all appear on the piece, though the latter pair's contributions are all but rendered inaudible by the density of the undulating ambient mass.

Even more meditative in character is “Last Gasp,” whose intense, rhythmically untethered ebb and flow is effected through the carefully controlled interactions of rolling piano clusters, weeping strings, wordless vocal exhalations, and vibraphone textures. Sunnier by comparison is “Treading,” whose harmonious spirit is achieved through the combination of an insistent rhythmic lilt and an entrancing main theme that exudes a tinge of countrified twang.

What recommends Mood Paintings above all else is Nogood's gift for achieving emotional effect using instrumental textures, which the closer “Hold Me Like You Do the Sun” deftly illustrates in the way its multi-layered string masses lift the music to glorious heights. Describing this peak album moment as transcendent turns out to be less an example of hyperbole than a mere statement of fact, and when material of such incredible force is in play, Mood Paintings can't be recommended too highly.

March 2017