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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Linda Catlin Smith - Wanderer [Another Timbre - 2018]

Wanderer is the third release on Another Timbre from this Toronto based composer- it finds her severing up a selection eight hauntingly melodic yet at times sparse & melancholic works. The key sonic focuses of many of the tracks here is the piano, though other instrumentation is arranged around it in an often greatly dramatic & creative effect.

I first became aware of Ms Catlin Smith work in 2016, with the release of Dirt Road- which offered up a selection of decidedly skeletal, though at times grimly harmonic works for violin & percussion. With this album, I was very much captured by her ability to compose work that managed to be both bleak, and at times memorable & atmospheric. With Wanderer she really takes this skill, to present a selection of works which are both more dramatically layered, directly impactful, sonically varied, and often relatively approachable for work that comes from with the modern classical/ composition bracket.

The release opens with one of the album's highlights “Morning Glory”- this just shy of a thirteen-minute composition is from 2007. It begins with series of dramatically spaced out piano notation, that are slowly playing out a decidedly sad melody- by around the two & a half minute mark we start to get embellishment of vibe percussion, and forlorn swoops of flute & clarinet work. By around the midway point slow churning & brooding cello & violin slides are added into the mix- with all the elements following the piano original lead. At around the 8th minute we deviation slightly for some effective string pick, and compressed micro-percussion hits- which nicely add a feeling bareness- though fairly soon we return to the pieces original melodic flow- with the piano been used for awkward dark darts, which are surrounded by doomed horn swoons & deep cello saws.

Track three “Stare At The River” is one of the most unsettling, yet oddly haunting tracks here. It opens with an angular mesh of slurred piano notation, slowly sawing string work- and dramatically crashing-yet- spares percussion hits- the melody hints at mysterious yet sadly lulling eastern promise. By around the third minute, we’ve stripped back to sparse stabs of gloomy piano, but fairly soon this joined by wonderful forlorn trumpet & Clarinet work, which is surrounded by moodily darting percussion hits- taking on almost bleak jazz like dirge. The remaining track sees more dips into to gloomy expressive to angularly taut piano notation, with the string, horn & percussion elements subtly added to enhance & deepen the mood that’s been created.

Track five "Sarabande" finds the piano replaced been replaced by the darkly jaunting sound of the harpsichord-this is surrounded by either gloomy emotive simmers of violin &  cello, bleakly wavering trails of flute & Clarinet or fleeting vibe darts.  And to me this track really feels like she ’s managed to distil the fragile & hurt wonder of someone like Morton Feldman into smaller more compacted space- with the track coming in at just over the eight & a half minute mark.

The title track opens with sad & uncertainly stabs of piano notation, this is initially joined sparse-yet-grouped together cymbal hits. But fairly soon these are joined by slow malevolent slices violin & cello sourness, which later get added by similar sour-yet haunting pipings of clarinet. All to create a track that both suggest uneasy of travelling in treacherous location, and a tiredness of existence.

The album finishes up in one of the more pared back, but structurally active moments with "Light and water". This six-minute track brings together barren vibe wonderings, with darkly grand, to grimly sawing cello work. It’s a most effective end to the album, leaving one feeling suitable forlorn, yet inspired.

With the Wanderer Catlin Smith has built a varied, impactful, and often approachable modern classical album- which I can see as a very worthy entry point to those interested in the genre, or an equally rewarding for those already familiar with modern classical music. With out doubt Wanderer is one of the highlights of Another Timbre catalogue- it really needs to have a wider audience than the labels normal fan base.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Roger Batty
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