Monday, 4 May 2015

Dichroic Light: Matthew Whiteside

Although Dichroic Light is Matthew Whiteside's first CD release, it covers a considerable amount of the composer's work: the title track is his earliest piece of electro-acoustic music, while the collaboration with Emma Lloyd (featuring her on the viola d'amore augmented by Whiteside's electronics) was only completed this year. Yet throughout the release, Whiteside's fusion of electronic and classical instrumentation expresses a consistent and confident identity.

By turns melancholic and aggressive - his scores for viola and cello both have a waspish attack - and even surprisingly playful (Well, Well, Well almost resolves into a jolly jog), Whiteside's sensitivity to the acoustic instruments is matched by a subtle and responsive electronic accompaniment. 

Allowing the viola d'amore to lead, or the cello to set the tone, the electronics escape the predictable crackle and squelch that frequently passes for experimental. Rather, the effect conjures up an acoustic space that warps or enhances the musicality, as if the recording - done by Whiteside himself alongside Timothy Cooper and engineer Jimmy Eadie - is capturing the ambience of diverse recording locations. 

This atmosphere - notable in Three Pieces for Bass Clarinet and Electronics ensures that the 'classical' is not lost in the contemporary. While Whiteside evokes minimalism - although more suggestively than in a rhythmic connection to Reich or Glass - the influences of baroque, romantic and spectral composition are melded into a striking and distinctive sound.

Surprisingly for an album that could be seen as 'the greatest hits so far' (The World in an Oyster... and Well, Well, Well are already signature compositions for Whiteside), the journey of the twelve scores across the CD suggests a continuity of style and intention. Whether working with The Red Note Ensemble or Emma Lloyd - who kicks off the album with Ulation, a savagely mournful introduction on viola - Whiteside is not just exploring the range of electro-acoustic music, he is finding a rare musicality and accessibility.

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