Boomkat Product Review:
Celebrated cellist Oliver Coates beautifully expands upon his blink ’n miss 2018 release of ‘John Luther Adams’ Canticles of the Sky’ with a further three takes on pieces from the same John Luther Adams release, plus an alternate version.
Originally issued by RVNG Intl in early 2018 as a primer for their release of Coates’ ’Shelley’s On Zenn-la’ album, the RSD pressing of 1000 copies flew out, so it’s a mercy that he’s now returned to delve deeper into the same album, with results ranking among his most definitive solo recordings.
In contrast to Coates’ other solo records, there’s no discernible electronics in the album, bar one obvious omission in the ‘(Alt FX Render)’ of ‘Above Sunset’. That one aside, the others effectively reveal what myriad other artists - from The Corrs to Radiohead, Actress and Mica Levi - have been privy to in the studio: simply Coates’ untreated cello in its naked form.
Currently based in that Cairngorms, in the northern Scottish Highlands, it’s maybe easy to understand why John Luther Adams’ musical transcriptions of the Alaskan wilds appealed so much to Coates. In a way intended to mimic or emulate the music of an Aeolian Harp, he plays open strings that reflect the “untouched” nature of the Aolian Harp - a wind-blown instrument often found on hill tops or open spaces - and describe the sun’s slow, low arc as viewed from northerly latitudes. The four ’Sky’ pieces are each as sublime as the next, while the new parts - form the same original Adams album - feel equally natural, elemental, especially in the head-thizzing, elegant dynamics of ‘The Wind at Maclaren Summit.’