Alvin Lucier, Works for the Ever Present Orchestra Vol. II, Australia, Black Truffle Records, BT109 vinyl LP (2023)
A follow-up to the first album “Works for the Ever Present Orchestra” which was released in mid-2020, this work features two tracks written by US composer Alvin Lucier back in 2019 and 2020 for The Ever Present Orchestra, an ensemble formed in Zurich in 2016 to perform Lucier’s works exclusively. As Lucier passed away in December 2021, the two works here are among the last he composed.
“Arrigoni Bridge”, named after the bridge across the Connecticut River in Lucier’s home state of the same name and which is featured on the cover of the album, is performed on three lap steel guitars by Oren Ambarchi, Bernhard Rietbrock, and Jan Thoben whose playing follows the undulating forms of the eponymous bridge. The three guitarists are joined by Joan Jordi Oliver Arcos on alto saxophone, Rebecca Thies on violin and Lucy Railton on cello. The six players produce a steady yet reliable work of stately droning textures, rich in timbre and mood as the musicians exercise control and restraint. The music becomes very focused and journeys through a strange and abstract dimension that pulls you right into its centre. There is no way you can resist being absorbed into this concentrated laser-beam sound. Eventually the track brings you down gently – but where in the world have you been placed?
Second work “Flips” is another strange and abstract work, very cold and remote in its mood and approach, formed by the combination of two lap steel electric guitars (Rietbock and Thoben), double bass (Ross Wightman) and glockenspiel (Trevor Saint). The acoustic instruments sustain very long droning tones that produce beats that change speed depending on their distance from the guitar sweeps. Made up of very long tones, “Flips” is very eerie but has a strong inhuman life-force within its quivering tones that beat their wings like butterflies and hummingbirds.
Both tracks are stupendous for their lengths, with a strong, almost obsessive focus on their end goals, and feature long drawn-out tones that wear down all resistance and drag their audiences along with them in their vast alien soundscape universe. They aren’t easy to love, and you’ll probably not play them very much if you get them, but their command all your attention and demand that you savour every wobble and every flutter in every sound.