Alex Mincek: Torrent
Torrent is the first recording of Alex Mincek’s music since his 2011 self-titled debut on Carrier Records, and is also the debut of Sound American’s Young Composer Portrait (YCP) series, which introduces emerging artists by releasing music from the span of their career alongside a series of interviews and essays that contextualize the ways in which their history, aesthetic, and sound thinking have informed their work to date.

Although Mincek gained acclaim for his early work with the post-rock group Zs, this release focuses long-overdue attention on his chamber music — an iconoclastic combination of timbral rigor with frightening rhythmic drive and mastery of melody. Mincek does all this without becoming banal or derivative. As the composer told SA editor Nate Wooley in their interview for this release, he wants to enter in a “conversation” with the composers that he studies, a virtual give and take of ideas as opposed to rote learning.

This approach is clear from the music on Torrent — from the knotty push and pull of the Stravinskyesque "Pneuma" to the epic slow growth of the title track, which harkens to the quiet turbulence of Klaus Lang. Mincek is hyper-aware of his surroundings while actively developing (and refining) his own voice.

Torrent is a deluxe art object designed to offer a multivalent overview of Mincek’s history, aesthetic, and impact on the contemporary music world. The disc comes in a beautiful hard-cover case with 28 pages of notes, featuring the composer and Nate Wooley in conversation and in-depth interviews with his collaborators including Ian Antonio, Eric Wubbels, and Josh Modney.

Torrent, the first release from the new Sound American label—an extension of the excellent online music magazine edited by trumpeter Nate Wooley—is essentially a portrait disc, but it also happens to be illustrative of a growing trend in contemporary music, where being a composer no longer precludes being a performer. Mincek plays saxophone on two extended works where the instrument is featured, and for most of the album he’s working with New York’s Wet Ink Ensemble, a superb group he’s a founding member of. In a liner note interview, he even acknowledges that his playing on Pendulum VII was partly improvised—a decision that’s certainly related to the composer/performer dynamic. Both that piece and Pneuma pit the saxophone in frenetic, dizzying motion against a medium-sized ensemble, a dynamic collision of rhythm and harmony presented with breathtaking precision and energy. Lines and a shifting timbre regularly change direction, density, and attack, but there’s no missing the active play between the saxophone and the rest of the ensemble, chaotic yet controlled.

"The album also contains six movements from the composer’s “Harmonielehre”, a series of duets composed primarily for his Wet Ink colleagues Eric Wubbels (piano) and Josh Modney (violin), and these smaller pieces more clearly present the instruments in a steady dance built around opposition and, less often, harmony. Mincek draws from a half-dozen processes in varying combinations related to harmony, acoustic phenomena, as well as chance procedures and artist choice. The melodic shapes are severe, a quality heightened by extended techniques, and as a whole the pieces bristle with excitement and surprises. The album’s closing piece, Torrent, was written for two quartets working together—Yarn/Wire and Mivos Quartet, both of which shared members with Wet Ink at the time of the recording—with swells of sound and viscous textures seeming to move inexorably toward a portentous climax, when an glassy piano splatters and spasmodic percussion sends things in a different direction, exploding and then slowing down like a dying engine." — Peter Margasak, Best of Bandcamp Contemporary Classical Music 2017

Alex Mincek

Alex Mincek: Torrent

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Track Listing

Pendulum VII
Alex Mincek
Buy
Harmonielehre: I. Chorale I "Sum Difference"
Alex Mincek
Buy
Harmonielehre: II. Chorale II "Head Against Wall" (For Petr Kotik)
Alex Mincek
Buy
Harmonielehre: III. Envelopes
Alex Mincek
Buy
Pneuma
Alex Mincek
Buy
Harmonielehre: Rendering I - Blue Poles No. 11
Alex Mincek
Buy
Harmonielehre: Vocalise (For Reiko Fueting)
Alex Mincek
Buy
Harmonielehre: Rendering II - Oblique
Alex Mincek
Buy
Torrent
Alex Mincek
Buy

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