Seth Colter Walls
WQXR (New York)
, November 2013
The three-movement Perpetual opens the disc. Slowly unfolding unison lines, shared among the low end of the quartet and Thomson’s bass clarinet, present a wintry…sound world that ices over into something more crunchy and alarming, once the remaining quartet players enter, sporting keening dissonances.
If the first movement’s slow and steady run up the pitch ladder feels to you like a set-up…“Bad Idea,” the second movement, is a raucous, 16th-note parade. The scalar writing and steady riffing might get old quickly in other hands, but the invention of Thomson’s writing…keeps things compelling.
The final movement, “Don Pullen Says It’s OK,” references Thomson’s appreciation for the mobility of the jazz pianist, which made room for the blues as well as free-jazz piano-as-percussion. After the extremities of harmony and rhythm displayed in the first two movements, Pullen’s influence on Thomson’s finale manifests as a comfort with unabashed tonality.
Thaw, a four-movement work for string quartet, takes up the balance of the album. It shares a few strategies with the first piece: instrumental parts that may seem alienated in the early going; convergence toward unison lines; a late-in-the-piece turn toward folk-like melody…By the time of the finale, the opening austerity has…thawed into something downright hummable. © 2013 WQXR (New York) Read complete review