Alex Jang - Momentary Encounters [Another Timbre - 2018]Momentary Encounters offers up a selection of fragile, languid, & often extremely sparse examples of modern composition from Canadian composer Alex Jang. The four tracks utilize a relatively varied – but often paired-back sonic pallet that moves from blends of field recordings & wood wood, mixes of percussion, string & woodwind, and guitar.
This CD is the 7th release in Another Timbre's Canadian Composers series- which highlights the cream of the crop in Canadian modern composition. The release comes in the label house style minimal mini gatefold packaging- featuring sparse black texts against a white background. And for this releases front cover picture we get fittingly stark painting by Lance Austin Olsen- that takes in a series of black & green scrawls against an off-white backdrop.
Alex Jang is a composer/conductor/guitarist who studied composition at both the University of Huddersfield & Victoria. He has been composing since 2013, but Momentary Encounters is his first ever released CD, and I must say it’s a fairly impressive debut- severing up a mix of extremely sparse yet fairly inventive modern composition.
The four pieces here date between 2014 & 2017, with runtimes between nine & near twenty-five minutes. Opening up the album we have "Momentary Encounters (5)" this nearing sixteen-minute track sees the blending of a field recording ofTooting Bec Common, and the lulling & spaced-out weave of Heather Roche’s Clarinet playing. Ones mind initial gets sucked into trying to hear & define the distant mix of birdsong, water rush, children chatter & occasional dog bark. But fairly soon we get the introduction of the gentle sustained hum & blow of the Clarinet, which at first seems quite alien- but then quickly melds it’s self into the field recordings to creating this feeling lulling melancholia- which one sometimes gets on a hazy summers day, when the rest of the world is quietly buzzing away in the background as you sit in contanplaintion.
Later on, we have “A Gray, Bent Interior Horizon”- this nearing ten-minute piece from 2016 sees Christian Alvear playing a series of tightly plucked ‘n’ picked, reverb-less & decidedly sour guitar motifs- which at times almost hint at structure/ harmony, but never quite get there. The piece very nicely captures a feeling of blunt numbness, and stark emotional dwell, with a very subtle vein of fading playfulness.
The album is topped off with the longest work here 2014/2017’s "Distributed Tourism"- which sees emotionally clipped & solemnly flowing mesh of violin, vibraphone, clarinet, flute & cello notation. These elements blend together to create a felt, wavering, and at times uncertain & slurred march- which subtle simmers with fragile wonder, lulling- yet- fraught harmonics, & emotional unsure-ness.
Momentary Encounters is a fine debut- that showcases both Jang ’s subtle emotionality, flair for sparse creativity, and occasional grim playfulness. I very much look forward to hearing what Jang does next.Roger Batty