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Pete M. Wyer: Stories from the City at Night (2008)

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Pete M. Wyer: Stories from the City at Night How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Pete M. Wyer's Stories from the City at Night bears uncanny reference to Kenneth Patchen and John Cage's 1942 radio play, The City Wears A Slouch Hat. Patchen, the "father of the beat poets," collaborated with composer Cage (there were no such titles as sound designer or DJ in those days) on an extraordinary soundtrack. Cage created sound effects to accompany the great poet's words, using tin cans, gongs, woodblocks, alarm bells, a Chinese tom-tom, bongos, cowbells, maracas, claves, ratchett, pod rattle, foghorn, and a thunder sheet. Certainly decades ahead of its time, it now has a dated feel to it. It is a relic of the past, sacred though it may be.

Likewise, Wyer's Stories from the City at Night has that dated feel, like something from a radio broadcast made before the ubiquitous spread of television. It's an album that demands full attention, without the intrusions of life. Played with the lights out and without any distractions, the city, New York, comes alive.

Wyer is a UK-born guitarist who has composed for orchestra, opera, TV, film and dance. This session incorporates a wide spectrum of players, voices and sounds. The thrust here is the diversity of lives and experiences that is the modern city. From the airplane flying over the rainy soundscape of the opening track, to the rain-spattered pleading of the thunderous "Pray For Me," the sounds bolster spoken (and sometimes sung) word texts in a way uncommon to modern music.

This is a radio play, a collection of short stories for the ear. It's about the nighttime dreams of men, or the clanging tale of Dina, the proprietor of the all-night diner. The character explains how her jazz dreams got sidetracked by love, and the misconception that the man she hit with her bicycle knew who Charlie Parker was.

Wyer is the orchestrator of these stories, collecting field recordings of the city with musicians including Matthew Shipp, Rob Heasman, Chris Cundy and Alan Tomlinson to flavor the voices of Wally Burr, Carol Lipnik, Jenny Agutter, Joe Warren, Peter Gordon and John Schaefer.

Wyer travels from the hell that is east of the Lower East side, filled with fork-tailed devils and an archangel perched upon the Woolworth building. Darkness penetrates this recording, evoking the ghosts of Raymond Chandler, Humphrey Bogart and Edward Hopper. The music, sounds, voices and stories belong to Wyer, but the visuals come from the active participation of the listener.

Track Listing: Pier 45; Somebody; East of Manhattan; Dinas All Night Diner; Here I Am; Nightride in a Subway Car; Nobody; Love Will See Us in Hell; Pray for Me.

Personnel: Pete M. Wyer: guitar, piano, cutlery, arrangements, field recordings, sound design; Wally Burr: voice; Simon Taylor: saxophones; Matthew Sharp: cello, voice; Matthew Shipp: piano; Carol Lipnik: voice; Rob Heasman: trumpet; Chris Cundy: saxophone, clarinet; Alan Tomlinson: trombone; Joe Warren: voice; John Schaefer: radio voice; Peter Gordon: voice; Evelyn Beech: whistler, vocal; Jenny Agutter: voice.

Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings

Style: Beyond Jazz


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