Every so often an ensemble comes along that is dedicated to some sort of stylistic-meta-acoustical way of playing-listening. Steve Reich's ensembles were/are that, as were some of course that Harry Partch assembled and so also Lou Harrison. Arcomusical is a new ensemble in that general channel of stylistic expression. Their third album is now available, entitled Emigre and Exile (Panoramic Records Pan25).
It is some four composers giving us single movements with one exception, that is Matt Ulery's title work with its six movements. Then there are three pieces by Gregory Beyer, and one apiece by Jeremy Muller and Alexandre Lunsqui.
Each work forwards an instrument not typical of western chamber music, such as the single stringed Brazilian Berimbau, or at times the inclusion of one or more typical western instruments, such as contrabass, vibraphone. for coloration and sometimes played in a non-standard manner for an even more pronounced coloration.. The Berimbau ensembles are inspired, beautifully sonic and a major reason to listen. But also the compositional approaches are all worth your attention over and above the sonic wonder of it as an entirety.
The music pulsates in engaging ways. Everything has a kind of tribal folk-avant forward momentum, an elementally riff-like tonality, with repetition ostinatos not at all formulaic. One hears Asian elements both Southeast and Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, some African momentums and Lou Harrison-esque transformations into a New Music singularity.
I've been an admirer of Matt Ulery's music for some time--I've reviewed a number of his recordings on the blogs over the years (see indexes on this and the Gapplegate Music Blog for those). This music has a departure element that fits in more specially for this ensemble. The other composers too line up the musical language to further flesh out the ethno-lyrical element so pronounced and well done here.
This is not an ordinary sort of album. It is uplifting and unusual. T recommend it if you are wanting something different, something off the well beaten path. Bravo.