Boomkat Product Review:
Completely unmissable controlled chaos from one of 20th century experimental music's most overlooked, important composers. Three of Eastman's enduring epics are performed here by four European titans - breathtaking stuff that captures a charged, passionate and willful brilliance.
Alongside John Cage, Christian Wolff and Morton Feldman, Julius Eastman helped redefine the piano in New York's hallowed avantgarde scene. But unlike his white contemporaries, Eastman never commanded the acclaim or wide appeal he deserved, only attracting global attention decades after his tragic death. This contemporary recording of "Four Pianos" is the latest tribute to a Black, gay creative mind whose impact and legacy is still being unpacked in public, as listeners and critics scramble to revise their historical lack of interest.
The music presented here is an antidote to the placid, social-climbing indifference of so much contemporary piano music. Eastman makes no attempt to be pretty, he runs away from nostalgia and has no interest in writing in modes of mannered elegance. Here, Eastman translates the comlpex torture of existence into his compositions, beginning with the almost hour-long 'Crazy N*gger' that sounds like an earthquake, tidal wave and volcanic eruption crashing in unison. Not especially dissonant or minimal, the piece hinges on the physicality of the piano and its ability to convey energy and emotion.
Pianists Nicolas Horvath, Melaine Dalibert, Stephane Ginsburgh and Wilhem Latchoumia bring the material to life with their own virtuoso skill, clearly showing a passion for Eastman's material. 'Evil N*gger' and 'Gay Guerilla' complete the epic triptych, and continue the opening piece's reliance on dynamic and physicality, pushing the listener through emotional peaks and troughs that feel like a psychic rollercoaster ride. It's exceptional music that highlights not only one of the USA's most important 20th century composers but conveys a political message that's never felt more contemporary.