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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

Maya Verlaak - All English Music is Greensleeves [Another Timbre - 2020]

All English Music is Greensleeves offers up five examples of modern chamber music from young up & coming Belgian composer Maya Verlaak. The compositions on this CD date from between the years 2014 and 2020, with the tone moving between playful & wonkily grand, onto seared & wavering.

Maya Verlaak born in Ghent in 1990, has been sonically active since 2008 as a performer, curator, and composer- for her day job she teaches composition at Conservatoire of Amsterdam. According to her website, she’s racked up around fifty plus compositions thus far- with many of these offering up a blend of formal and less formal sonic tools- so she is certainly both creative & inventive in her compositions.

We open with "Lark"- this is a 2014 composition that got revised in 2019- with this version been played by respected modern chamber collective Apartment House. The just over nine-minute track sits between buoyantly playful & dartingly rising, with moments waveringly fraught emotion. At its centre is an amplified music box( played by Verlaak) & brightly chiming glockenspiel. This is surrounded by grand-to-waving string & horn work, as well as darts of spritely piano keys. The whole thing is a marvellous mix of bright hopeful harmonics and uncertain nerviness- very much bringing to mind the first attempts at flight by a young bird.

Next, we very much switch tack & tone to whistling seared-ness  of “Formation De Sarah” from 2019. Here we find just over eight minutes of high pitch drifting & sawing violin tones- played by Sarah Saviet, all  topped with a women constantly repeating the word ‘no’ over & over again. This was a very nerve-jangling, and initially very grating track- but over repeat plays it’s rather grown on me with its blend of sour-to-piecing tones. Though I do still, at points, find the repeated word still a little tiring, though I couldn’t imagine the track without it.

Track three is the ten and a half minute title track- this composed in 2014, then revised in 2019. Here the Apartment House return once more for a composition that is both moodily piping & wonderingly angular. It’s built around a series of wavering & bittersweet waltz's, which are broken up by moments of brief silence- each time the music draws back it feels both more angular, yet bent grand/ almost harmonic in its intent.

Next, we have 2020’s “Formation De Mark”- this ten and half minute track finds pianist Mark Knoop pacing out tightly reverb-to-suddenly dart notion, against a mixture of repeated female texts & waving sing-song vocalizing. This track feels both fragile, awkward and alien- it may be overstays its welcome a little bit, but with an excise, in bittersweetness, it works.

Lastly, we have 2017’s “Song and Dance”, and this just over fifteen-minute track returns to the rising wonder-meets-waving wonkiness of the first track. The composition once again features the Apartment house, with a blend of string, wind, and piano topped with the addition of two-way sandpaper rubbing & electronics. We have a mixture of grand & warmly rising melodies, slightly fraught & waving angularity, and the pretty much constant rub & scape of doubled-up sandpapering.


As a release, All English Music is Greensleeves certainly shows Verlaak as an interesting and growing talent. Sure some of the compositions either last a touch too long, or are a little prevalent with more repetitive at times grating touches, but there are certainly moments of distinctive & haphazard wonder here. And I do look forward to seeing how Verlaak develops as a composer.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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