Musical America Worldwide: New American Chamber Recordings, Part I

Published on January 10, 2024 by Clive Paget       |      Share this post!

“Another first-rate album for this GRAMMY-winning outfit”

Between Breaths, the latest album from Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion, features five world premieres linked by the idea of meditation. Missy Mazzoli’s five-movement Millennium Canticles imagines a community attempting to recreate the rituals of human life after some kind of catastrophe. The eclectic palate includes wooden planks, drums, metal pipes, and chimes, plus vocal sounds suggesting shock, rage, and hope. “Famous Disaster Psalm,” for example, involves sharp intakes of breath over muted xylophone, while the snippy percussion in “Bloodied Bells” punctuates a soundscape of reverberating chimes. “Choir of the Holy Locusts” mixes insect-like buzzing with bursts of chant, and “Survival Psalm” channels Kathak drumming with its plosive vocalizations.

Tyondai Braxton’s feelgood Sunny X adds electronics to an array of gongs, woodblocks, metal pipes, and plates for a fast ride in a minimalist-inspired machine. Hypnotic patterns built from tiny unpitched phrases combine with funky electronic washes in a work that oozes charisma. There’s a similar warmth, but with added lyricism, to Ayanna Woods’s Triple Point, a nimble-footed exploration of balance and imbalance based on the scientific principle of the “triple point” where a substance can exist in equilibrium as a solid, liquid, and gas. Performed by four players on two marimbas, Gemma Peacocke’s Death Wish, pays tribute to a Maori poet, activist, and survivor of sexual assault. For all its gritty backstory, there’s a sense of reflective optimism in whirling patterns reminiscent of the music of Steve Reich. In Practice, an attractive hyper-rhythmic work collectively composed by the players themselves, completes another first-rate album for this Grammy-winning outfit.

Between Breaths
Music by Missy Mazzoli, Gemma Peacocke et al. Third Coast Percussion
Çedille CDR 900000 224