Ryan Teague: Six Preludes
Type Records

On the evidence of its most recent releases, Type Records appears to be gradually disassociating itself from conventional electronica and gravitating towards a quasi-classical-electronic fusion that has more in common with the American label Cold Blue. The latter's superb offerings inhabit a refined musical realm that exudes all the sophistication of classical music without being formally classical as such; even better, Cold Blue's releases eschew classical austerity for accessibility with no compromise to musical quality. That characterization easily applies to Type's latest offering, Ryan Teague's Six Preludes, and not merely because of its classically-oriented track titles.

The Cambridge resident deliberately fuses electronic and acoustic elements into startling wholes that are as much soundscapes as formal compositions. One might think of Biosphere (in particular the Biosphere who created the Debussy-inspired Shenzhou) or the Marsen Jules of Herbstlaub as kin to Teague though the tracks here also evidence the influence of Steve Reich and György Ligeti. “Prelude III,” for example, includes traces of Reichian minimalism in its wave-like patterns of string bowings but Teague pushes the piece into a more exotic gamelan zone by featuring the woodsy pluck of a kalimba. In “Prelude II,” blurry layers of string masses, spectral tones, and gently clattering percussion slowly transform into mysterious, Ligeti-like harmonics.

Teague's programming, clarinet, and guitar are augmented throughout by Martin Hughes whose violin at times exudes a singing vibrato of the kind associated with Alexander Balanescu. Clarinet audibly appears for the first time in the fifth prelude, a meditative, brooding 'new classical' interweave of clarinet, strings, and electronics, and in the closing meditation a melancholy clarinet line gradually surfaces amidst ruminative piano figures and percolating clusters of electronics. The opening piece makes the strongest impression, however. In “Prelude I,” Hughes' haunting strings morph into a hazy drifting mass of electronic shudders with Chloe Leaper's faint, hymn-like vocal line buried deeply within. The sound quality is dense, even aquatic, and the music itself elegiac and stately.

Despite the occasionally conspicuous influence, Teague's music ultimately sounds like his alone. Much like Sanso-Xtro's Sentimentalist, another recent Type offering, Teague's Six Preludes is a mini-album that weighs in at slightly under 33 minutes but, also like Sentimentalist, there's not a moment wasted during its immaculate presentation.

June 2005