Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I think this Jpeg is from the CD version because I'm pretty sure my record doesn't have the 'ECM New Series' writing at the bottom of the sleeve.

Important stuff out the way, the catchily titled 'Octet - Music For a Large Ensemble - Violin Phaze' came to my attention quite randomly a few years ago. I had illegally downloaded some Steve Reich stuff in the hope that it might somehow make me a better, fuller person, then I forgot all about it.

Then I was walking to work one day in Spring when I was living in New York and the first song/composition from the above came on my ipod. For the first few blocks I was to use the New York beat poet terminology of the mid to late Sixties 'Diggin' it' and then for the next few I was reaching around in my rucksack for the skip button, eventually I gave up on this and slowly got back to the 'Diggin' it'.

The first track sounds a bit like somebody playing the best bit from MIKE OLDFIELD's 'Tubular Bells' over and over again. The second track also sounds a bit like this. The third track sounds a bit like the first two tracks.

I am confident in the above being the least well informed and flattering review of Reich's music ever written. There is quite probably politics in there, something about being Jewish, something about his parents getting divorced early in his life and him being bullied into piano lessons. Sadly all I am hearing is what sounds like lots of violins playing the same passage over and over with very slightly differrent starting times (Quite possibly the reason for me not getting that job reviewing for WIRE magazine)... And I like it.

When I first heard the name Steve Reich I automatically assumed he was the lead singer of an early Eighties US punk group possibly called The Abortions. Despite having one of the coolest names in music he is a quite a serious modern classical composer by all accounts... And according to the internet he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music on monday so good work Steve... Even if it would have been so much more awesome if you had recieved that prize for the self titles 'The Abortions' album and not 'Double Sextet'.

Not only is 'Violin Phase' a wholly passable soundtrack to the early morning streets of New York city it is also perfect bathroom cleaning music. You can actually scrub mirrors, tiles and toilets in time to the bow being drawn back and forth across the strings. And if that isn't a solid gold 'buy me now!' endorsement I don't know what is.

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