Anthony Pateras Mutant Theatre

[Tzadik; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: contemporary composition, electronic-organic hybrid
Others: John Zorn, Robert Crumb, Steve Reich, Nmperign

Isn't it amazing how drastically reading something about an artist or a song can sometimes change the way they sound afterwards? Whether it's reading an interview with the band or a particularly insightful review, it can help unlock layers of the music that you hadn't accessed before. Maybe that's why music heard through a minimum of filters is so enjoyable... but I digress. With Mutant Theatre, my approach to the music was altered considerably by reading the included liner notes, something I rarely do. But then again, few liner notes are as informative as these, with Pateras detailing his intentions of every piece.

At first, I heard the opening work, "Transmutations," as a very able study of dynamics in volume and intensity; but admittedly nothing terribly groundbreaking. He describes the movements of "Transmutations" as explorations of both "various densities of repeated timbral events or gestures" and "the gradual mutation of sonic mass through time." They are his reinterpretations of electronic performance and production for live instrumentation, each a "decomposition backwards from the initial creative impulse." My perception completely changes. Upon listening again, I can appreciate the simultaneous "organicism" and almost mechanical symphony of the six players: evolving slowly and smoothly while attacking and retreating with the precision of a Powerbook. And I'll be damned if it's not exciting. I can only assume the title refers to both the music's mutation within the piece and to the convergent mutation of organic and electronic.

All of the pieces on this album examine the role of time in music. "Inevitable Plasma" finds Pateras playing piano in such a way that his hands at times work as one to more ably explore the extremes of density. On "Meshanitsa," his hands and voice interact to manipulate a single correlated output, each dictating what the other does. The end result sounds almost nothing like piano, voice, or any combination thereof; and at times, it's harnessed to create fascinating and potent results. "Mutant Theatre" has seven "scenes" with separate aims, all written for percussionist Vanessa Tomlinson. She's surrounded with 40+ instruments, and as you may have guessed, is instructed to mutate conventional structures and sources using this arsenal that includes dominoes, toys, mousetraps and balloons. She and Pateras succeed in making utterly absurd yet challenging music. The penultimate piece, "Twitch," is stated to have been written specifically for the performers and their idiosyncrasies, and it relies heavily on solos exposing these quirks. In addition to density and amplitude, this piece adds a dimension of texture, juxtaposing instruments and processing them in real time with a laptop.

It wouldn't be reasonable to expect all listeners to be interested in Pateras' music, but anyone curious in where the trailblazers of avant-garde are heading will be captivated by his bold creative foray. This is yet another excellent release from Tzadik, home to some of the most fearlessly innovative music in the world today.

1. Transmutations
2. Transmutations
3. Transmutations
4. Transmutations
5. Transmutations
6. Inevitable Plasma
7. Meshanitsa
8. Mutant Theatre
9. Mutant Theatre (Continued)
10. Mutant Theatre (Continued)
11. Mutant Theatre (Continued)
12. Mutant Theatre (Continued)
13. Mutant Theatre (Continued)
14. Mutant Theatre (Continued)
15. Twitch
16. Mutant Theatre Act 2, Scene 5

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