James Weeks - Summer [Another Timbre - 2020]
Summer is a new collection of work from British composer James Weeks. The CD takes in five modern chamber works, and seventy minutes’ worth of music, and I must say it stands as one of the more enchanting and consistently varied modern classical releases I have heard in some time. With the compositions moving between hauntingly moody piano-led ensemble pieces, wind and string duos, double tubular bell led simmering uneasy, a solo piano work, and a lengthy work for wind, string, Celtic harp, voice, and electronics.
The release appears Another Timbre- the Sheffield UK based label that releases some of the more interesting/ worthy sides of modern classical, improv, and modern composition. The CD comes presented in the labels house style mini white gatefold, and this featuring on its front cover a picture of layered and organic looking green texture- so a nicely minimal, yet classy art presentation.
James Week is both a composer, conductor and teacher of composition. He’s been writing/ recording work since the late 1990’s- with fourteen albums top his name thus far, including an early Another Timbre release 2019’s Windfall, which saw him collaborating with Violinist Mira Benjamin.
For the five works here Weeks uses the considerable talents of London-based chamber collective Explore Ensemble, and they play all the pieces with both great sonic clarity and emotional depth- which of course really makes Weeks composition shine even more.
The album opens with the title track- this just over thirteen-and-a-half-minute work was written in 2016. It finds Siwan Rhys slow plodding and haunting piano work plotting out the pieces lulling pace and harmony, as the surrounding six players heighten the works moodily droning and atmospheric edges. As we move into the album we come to Düsseldorf- this is an eleven-and-a-half-minute piece from 2017 for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and double tubular bell. The work is all about meshed and hazed tolling’s, ghostly-yet- slight seared simmers and warbling eerier-ness, all of which creates a feeling of drifting and slightly luminous uneasy.Roger Batty
The album is finished off with the longest work here Siro’s Garden- this was composed between the years 2018 and 2020. The just over half-an-hour work opens with a man speaking Italian texts, over the rising lazy pluck of a Celtic harp. Slowly but surely we find alto and bass flutes, clarinet, violin, cello and subtle electro texturing been added to the mix- which creates a wonderfully layered feeling that blends pressing forbiddances, sub-bass uneasy, and grim simmer. As harp wonkily flits and flays, as the blend of wind, string hover, and whispered spoken word elements mix- all creating a feeling of falling and surreally altered beauty.
So, in finishing Summer is a most compelling and rewarding example of the modern classic form, with Weeks skilful and engrossing composition played with great depth, atmospheric grace, and felt nuance by the Explore Ensemble. Really if you have even a passing interest in modern classical music, and its connected related genres you’ll be needing to pick this album up….simply put, spellbind stuff!