One frequent problem with the New Complexity and its pop music counterpart, math rock, is that the composers behind such works often prize virtuosity and musical complexity above all else. It’s not that difficult metrical modulations and elaborate tonal systems are in any way “bad,” but there are many instances where the difficulty and technicality of the material seem solely employed to show off the artist’s skill.
Despite working with extremely mathy musical elements, Jonathan Pfeffer has never succumbed to mere technical masturbation. Listen to the work of his former band Capillary Action, and it becomes apparent that Pfeffer is quite skilled at coaxing grooves and memorable melodies out of even the most complex structures. These abilities are on full display with Pfeffer’s new composition “Bodega” which amazingly manages to work Ferneyhough-esque rhythms into footwork-like grooves and genuinely shocks when a rap begins seven minutes into the piece. Despite these seemingly disparate elements, “Bodega” flows incredibly well and makes me think of what might happen if Zach Hill incorporated more of his math rock background into some of his Death Grips beats. There are many contemporary classical composers who are attempting to mix hip-hop/dance music elements with the technicality of formal composition but Pfeffer has set a high bar for cross-pollination success with “Bodega.” Unlike many of his peers, it’s clear that Pfeffer has absorbed and synthesized the styles that he chooses to work with, and as a result, “Bodega” manages to simultaneously groove while impressing with technicality.
Listen to “Bodega” via Pfeffer’s SoundCloud below:
• Jonathan Pfeffer www.jonathanpfeffer.com