Long Echo Records (label)
13 September 2021 (released)
08 October 2021
The breadth of style and technique under which New York-based composer Elliot Cole works is vast. The Austin-raised "charismatic contemporary bard" emits music by whatever means necessary. Beyond the standard avenues for any stereotypical classical composer like choir and musical theatre, Cole also played in bands and tinkered with noise collages via a four-track tape recorder. This boundless creative exploration has continued throughout his career developing him into an enigmatic creator. The composer embraces both the very old and very new. He reads and teaches 14th-century mensural notation to perform medieval pieces and he has also designed and coded a VR gestural instrument. He produces electronic music with analog and modular synthesizers and he scored the breakthrough VR experience Evolver alongside Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) and Wu-Tang Clan, which previewed at Cannes in 2021. His compositions have become standards, he has performed with Grammy winners and nominees, and he is on the faculty at Julliard. His accolades are beyond reproach.
On his latest record Journals (Vol. 1), Cole releases himself from the search for strange new sonic environments to make a more personal record. The methods are a great deal more traditional in nature with flourishes of modern exuberance tossed in for good measure. Cole states: “I usually make music to get outside myself, to explore, to roam. To discover something I didn't already have in me. But Journals is a return to the personal – a pencil and a notebook, a private moment, drawing out what's inside”. The pieces are generally patient and reflective, occasionally erupting into passionate preoccupations. The album is a conversation between the practicality of Jordan Dodson's guitar and the emotionality of the cello of Gabriel Cabezas Paul Simon). The five relatively brief movements denote the feelings at 5 specific points in the final two months of the year. The album has the essence of a cycle coming to a close. Taking stock of the year's losses and preparing for what's next.
The album begins the day after Halloween when winter's touch becomes inescapable. 'November 1: Homesick' weaves meandering guitar arpeggios with moderately swelling strings. Not the height of drama, rather that dull ache of being removed from the familiar comforts of home. 'November 25: Lovesick' operates on a similar dynamic echoing the analogy between feeling at home and the wants of the heart. Cabezas' cello becomes somewhat more deep and dire.
'December 4: Papakata' springs to life with a mix of seasonal celebration and carnal intrigue. The nimble guitar-cello combo gives a frantic undercurrent to a torrid string lead. Dark, heavy metal note choices give this piece an urgent, hard edge. 'December 7: Utah' backs off with the most relaxed vibe of the record. Homespun and possessed by the calm of wide-open spaces. The piece offers an enduring sense of complex human dynamics carrying on between simple folk. Never quite tense, never quite at peace. The finale 'December 14: Exit Row' is a raucous two-minute blast to wrap the album. Amid kinetic runs, unrestrained strums rattle strings and shake nerves.
Journals (Vol. 1) has the sonics of a prime-era classical composition but with a few lances of rule-breaking frenzy. Five movements at various precipices, pining and craving. Waiting for the other foot to drop. A range of emotions to be explored in a scant 16 minutes and 57 seconds.