It is always great to see well-established record labels boldly promoting new names for listeners to enjoy, as was the case when the UK-based Another Timbre released Marco Baldini's debut CD Vesperi in February 2023 (reviewed previously). Luckily for us, that was not the only new name to many on that batch of releases: Eden Lonsdale's Clear and Hazy Moons is a great example of powerful compositional writing, capable of transporting one's mind to distant and beautiful places.
While Lonsdale had been making music since the age of 9, it was his study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama which influenced his compositional style the most. Soaking up the influences from some of the compositional staff at Guildhall, including James Weeks, Paul Newland, Laurence Crane and Cassandra Miller, he quickly realised what kind of music he wanted to make. Just like Baldini, Lonsdale cited Another Timbre as a source of inspiration. It seems that the wave of young composers who were at some stage inspired by Another Timbre is slowly taking hold of mapping the uncharted territory where the record label is heading next.
The album consists of four works, each one presenting a unique soundscape through the composer's evocative use of instrumental colours, textures, pacing and dynamics. Though all the pieces on this disc were written in 2022, exploring different outcomes with different techniques, it is precisely Lonsdale's timbral preoccupation that binds them together. The duration of the pieces ranges from 15 minutes to 25 minutes, which pertinently allows the material to ebb and flow as per composer's command without getting boring or repetitive.
The four works can be seen as two pairs. The album begins with "Oasis," which instantly radiates an alarming atmosphere only to evaporate as the piece comes to conclusion. The music succeeds in evolving organically and carries on the conversation with itself without resorting to any cheap tricks, such as contrasting melodies, harmonies and timbres. "Clear and Hazy Moons" is similar in character, painting a perturbed and eerie soundscape. The second pair of pieces is less about apprehension and more about lyricism and melodies. "Billowing" grows out of a folkish tunenot dissimilar to a particular tune by Stravinsky as the composer himself acknowledgeswhich shimmers in the high register, while prolonged tones and a low drone paint the backdrop to it. The soundscape is occasionally disturbed by descending scales which try to bring the melody down, but it does not surrender to it as if defying gravity itself. Just like the name suggests, the music here is full of breathing, upward and downward motion, and it encourages the listener to want to breathe with it. Using the same instrumentation, "Anatomy of Joy" flickers like a blue gas flame consuming oxygen around it to keep on burning.
It is Lonsdale's clever and nuanced blending of timbres and pacing of material which makes the music so compelling and engaging to listen to. The pieces feature various permutations of strings, trumpet, saxophone, flute, clarinet, guitar, percussion, keyboard and piano. The sizable range of instruments provides more than enough variation for the composer to concoct fascinating and imaginative colours, playing around with dynamics, registers and articulation. An album full of character and personality.
Oasis; Billowing; Clear and Hazy Moons; Anatomy of Joy.
Apartment House (tracks 1, 2 and 4):
Mira Benjamin: violin; Bridget Carey: viola; Anton Lukoszevieze: cello; James Opstad: double bass; Heather Roche:
clarinet; David Zucchi: soprano saxophone; Nancy Ruffer: flutes; Rebecca Toal: trumpet; Sam Cave: electric guitar;
Kerry Yong: piano; Simon Limbrick: percussion.
Rothko Collective (track 3):
Leon Human: violin; Anna Brown: violin; Dominic Stokes: viola; Sandy Scott-Brown: cello; Lucy Walsh: alto flute;
Izzy Hopkins: bass clarinet; Toril Azzalini-Machecler: percussion; Isaac Hariri: percussion; Sebastian-Benedict
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