Boomkat Product Review:
In celebration of Gavin Bryars' 80th birthday comes this astonishing site-specific composition, written for a gigantic installation designed by visual artist Massimo Bartolini, who suspended scaffolding pipes across nine rooms, transforming them into pipe organ bars.
Since his stirring debut album, 1975's 'Sinking of the Titanic', Bryars has attempted to bring the past into the future, using precise aesthetic choices to manipulate instrumentation and bring our attention to physical spaces and the emotional traces that haunt them. Almost half a century later, the composer is still making radical moves, as evidenced by this furrowed set of resonant recordings that situate us inside a vast, multi-room art installation. The physical space was dreamt up by Massimo Bartolini, who filled each room of the Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art in Prato with scaffolding, using the pipes as organ bars that Bryars subsequently developed a piece for. Each side of 'In Là' forces us to consider the site's sprawling architecture, the first taking us on a journey from the first room to the ninth and back, and the second walking us on a reverse path.
In recent years the pipe organ has become one of the experimental landscape's most ubiquitous staples, a familiar reminder of the past that neatly sidesteps the baroque period in favor of earlier, murkier memories. Bryars avoids over-aestheticizing the instrument, instead reminding us of the spaces the organ flourished in: cavernous cathedrals, concert halls and huge stone churches. Bartolini's makeshift pipes create a similar but not identical tone, and the multi-room space tears the composition into fragments, making it hard for listeners to hear everything at once and therefore necessitating movement. Bryars' recording is deftly measured to account for this experience, and is refreshingly open - we hear footsteps, clicks and natural rhythms as we're escorted through the space and allowed to marvel at the shifting tones. In Bryars' hands the pipe organ isn't a fixed sound, but something that changes depending on where your ears might be positioned; at one moment, it sounds like booming, saturated sub-bass pushed into the red, at others like a flute or a synthesizer.
Even the use of scaffolding seems intentional, bringing to mind not only the industrial landscape but the image of churches and cathedrals under constant repair as the modern world attempts to preserve remnants of the past. Bryars' composition feels dutifully funereal, mourning a bygone age while it celebrates the possibilities of the present; these phantasmagorical traces dance around the vast rooms giving us just as much to chew on as 'Sinking of the Titanic' did when Bryars drowned trails of 'Amazing Grace' in poignant reverb. Needless to say, if you've been lapping up recent organ material from Ellen Arkbro, Kara-Lis Coverdale, FUJI||||||||||TA and others, this one will no doubt be an eye opener.