♫♪  Alex Menzies - Order & Disorder

A plaintive piano melody escapes from a tiny speaker into an empty warehouse. A classical quartet tries to work out an arrangement for “Strings of Life,” locking together as four voices to pound out those battering block chords. The second law of thermodynamics has been accepted as an axiom: energy dissipates and matter disperses.

Alex Menzies ghosts through genre boundaries and compositional styles at will. His 40+ item catalog of physical objects under the Alex Smoke moniker for labels like R&S and Soma Quality Recordings showcase his complex technoid production, ornamented with striking harmonies and percussion patterns that bloom and complicate as each track streaks forward under its own momentum. The music he made under his given name for a BBC physics documentary entitled “Order and Disorder” bears evidence of his years of electronic experimentalism, while detailing a combinatory vision of modern electro-acoustic / classical composition — carried over lush piano harmonies, expanses of mechanical drone, and the voice of his cello.

The 22 miniatures that make up the Order and Disorder LP, due April 27 from Ricardo Donoso’s ascendant Kathexis Records each bear their own arc of activity, shifting from entropic grinds into layered systems of multi-textured tones over the course of their brief lifespans. We recognize some familiar voices within the arrangements, as synth and piano eke out chord progressions over hissing field recordings. Stream the entire album in full here, and prepare your brain to parse through the glistening details of Menzies’s song cycle. “Disorder Main Theme 2” pounds out its triumphant arpeggios alongside a rich string arrangement that keeps the harmonic grid twisting back onto itself. “Order Ligeti” channels the Hungarian legend’s dense tone clusters into a pitch black murk of electronically augmented voices. “13 Disorder 4E” clicks and bubbles with a seemingly randomized synth patch that reveals itself, as more layers creep into the mix, to be quite tightly tethered to its attendant elements.

Like Nils Frahm’s recent explorations of the possible intersections between classical performance and the avant electronic tradition, Menzies’ work stretches its tendrils through disparate disciplines without ever sacrificing its eminent listenability, its clear craftsmanship, or its beauty. Split apart from the documentary’s visuals, these pieces create their own illusory worlds, populated with afterimages of atomic diagrams and the staves of manuscript paper.

• Alex Menzies: http://alexmenzies.net
• Kathexis Records: http://www.kathexis.org

Chocolate Grinder

CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we’ll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.

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