Mincek is a composer who studied with Tristan Murail, among others, and one picks up both the spectralist influence as well as inklings of Bang On A Can veterans like Michael Gordon and Anthony Braxton. Very complexly written and extremely well performed by the Wet Ink Ensemble, the JACK quartet and the saxophone/percussion duo of Michael Ibrahim and Eric Poland, there's nonetheless something of the air of the academy about much of the music, a disconnect from the "real world".
"Pendulum V" begins with mixtures of low brass that sound almost Mingusian before splintering into a vast array of blurts, squeaks and honks, all quite controlled and deftly deployed, a stewpot of apparent sources, the whole evoking an uneasy mixture of 60s Xenakis, 70s (academic) Braxton with a patina of post-minimalist gloss. It's unsettling in its rather schizophrenic character, not really gelling into something with a real, core presence, but admittedly sounding technically impressive. It's a sense this listener gets when listening to many of the composers associated with Bang On A Can (Michael Gordon pops into mind toward the end of this piece, as does one of their eminences grises, Louis Andriessen) . Which of course means that listeners partial to those composers could have a blast here. A similar sensibility pervades the "String Quartet No. 3: lift-tilt-filter-split" (a wonderful subtitle), performed in style by the JACK Quartet but, ultimately feeling more like a sequence of bravura technical flourishes than a deep composition. Other commentators have mentioned the influence of Xenakis in Mincek's work which, on the one hand, you can hear superficially, but the bone-deep rawness and organicism of Xenakis, crucial elements of his genius, don't register to this listener. Which isn't to say there aren't thrills to be had and pleasurable giddiness to be felt, just that the effects dissipate rather quickly.
The Braxton presence comes seriously to the fore on "Pendulum III", performed by the Wet Ink Ensemble with Eliot Gattegno featured on alto saxophone. The resemblance is unavoidable and serves to somewhat obscure the muscular, spiky composition which, to the extent one considers it a compliment, indeed stacks up well against, for example the sort of music Braxton wrote for himself and the Schumann Ensemble in the late 70s. "Poco a Poco" (same ensemble) provides, at first, a welcome respite beginning in meditative fashion with lovely, strong piano chords played against quavering reeds. It soon splays out into more freneticism, though, calm passages set against thornier ones led by muted trumpet. It's a little frustrating, as there was an impression of richness and quiet examination at its onset, though one assumes the departure (or impatience with that state of mind) was intentional on Mincek's part.
"Nucleus", a duet for saxophone and percussion, begins with a pleasant array of tuned percussion and extended reed techniques and, inevitably, explodes out into a similar kind of juxtapositional writing, softer segments smashed against more violent ones, Ibrahim using flutter and ghost tone attacks mixed in among the more strident keening (perhaps more Roscoe Mitchell than Braxton here). Though composed, it's the piece that wears it avant jazz affinity more overtly than any of the others.
One can hear why Mincek is esteemed among certain fans and musicians, but this listener hears a bit too much of the conservatory for all its contained roughness and wants to hear more from the streets. Or the fields.
Comments and Feedback: