Notes and Editorial Reviews
The British ensemble Icebreaker emerged in the late 1980s as one answer to the identity crisis that new music suffered in that most barren of decades. With its core instrumentation of woodwinds, keyboards, rockist percussion and mean'n'moody electric guitars, expectations of a composed response to post-punk bands like Throbbing Gristle and Public Image Limited were raised but then quickly dashed. Icebreaker instead became the UK franchise of Dutch minimalism, with soulless propaganda often supplanting meaningful musical content.
Artistic director James Poke's reduced orchestration of leading Dutch minimalist Louis Andriessen's De snelheid is cautionary. This is one of Andriessen's most didactic scores which hammers home the
acoustic phenomenon of accelerating rhythms becoming so fast that they transform themselves into tremolos played at a slower tempo. The trajectory that the piece will follow becomes clear from the first few bars, while Icebreaker's bullying machismo is a real turn-off. And they're actually doing Andriessen a disservice - like Ravel's Bolero, at least there's orchestration in the original. Damian Le Gassick's Evol is Andriessen-lite, and Gavin Bryars's The Archangel Trip is a latter-day pastoral soundscape.
Contributions from the two New Yorkers are meatier affairs. Michael Gordon knows the notational tricks that obligate the ensemble to play with genuine physicality and a sense of funk. Nor does his Yo Shakespeare take itself too seriously, and his ear for instrumental colour defeats the Icebreaker house-style. David Lang's Slow Movement is perched somewhere between Jimi Hendrix and lannis Xenakis. Which is kind of an interesting place to be.
-- Philip Clark, Gramophone [7/2006]
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