Composer Collective Albums: Object Collection

This is the second installment of a two-part review series. Both reviews take a look at recent releases by two composer collectives: Ensemble Pamplemousse and Object Collection.

Part 2: cheap&easy OCTOBER

Written in 2015 by Travis Just with libretto by Kara Feely and based on interviews about the aftermath of the Gezi Park Protests in Turkey, as well as Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution, Object Collection’s (Avi Glickstein, Andie Springer, Taylor Levine, Aaron Meicht, and Owen Weaver) noise-opera cheap&easy OCTOBER is an intense punk-energy infused protest.

“Pay No Attention to These Lies” gripped me from the get-go. I absolutely did not expect the driving, hammering drums and violin riffs that followed a rushed spoken word intro; it was a fantastic surprise that got me hooked instantly. The instrumental parts are fantastic; everything seems to hold together by a thread and maintains a wonderfully intense vibe. One thread is tied into the next as the previous track winds down and leads into “The Situation Was Getting Complicated.” The overlapping and sometimes rapidly shouted and/or spoken vocals make it difficult to follow the text–sometimes someone speaks while someone makes some kind of “aaah” or shout, and it is distracting, yet somewhat amusing.

Just as things get “complicated,” the track dies off and leads into the minute-and-a-half-long “We Have Not Yet Learned the New Songs.” Falsetto vocals dip and dive between ordinary speaking while a soaring violin battles with over-caffeinated percussion. A welcomed calm underscores some disturbing descriptions of abandoned smoky streets and snipers occupying windows, which is a surprisingly effective cadence. A brief trumpet solo (backed by some rhythmically ambiguous percussion) brings a nice breath into the beginning of “I Didn’t Really Prepare for This But Probable That’s Best.” This is the first track that brings real contrast to everything that came before it, and it is quite refreshing; most notable is the spacious and heavy drum solo that mostly consists of bass drum and cymbal hits, like a machine struggling to move forward.

Object Collection

Object Collection

“First Comes The Scattering” immediately brings back the energy with the introduction of deep synth and steady drum beats. The vocalists also bring the chaos with aplomb; they set the mood with energetic and spastic readings of their texts. A brief guitar/synth/drum interlude gives some breathing room before the vocalists return with a ferociousness that’s been carried throughout the opera thus far. Bits of riffs and licks come to the surface and recede like little glimpses of order in a swirling cacophony of sound. The track goes on for a bit too long, though; like a jam session that no one really knew how to end.

“Like War Strategies,” the briefest track on this album, is also probably the calmest; a brief eye in the middle of the storm, as it were. Little sparkles of a glockenspiel are interspersed like sprinkles, adding color to the concise yet roomy moment. “Drowning in Isolation and Provincialism” has the most variety and cohesion on the album. All the elements of previous tracks seem to come together and bring the revolution to a head. I still wasn’t really convinced by the vocals, though; interspersing high-pitched falsettos on single words or syllables was just a bit too distracting for me, especially since the instrumental parts were creating such cool textures and colors.

“There Was No Event At All” is another moment of breath and calm; this time mostly consisting of spoken word and what sounded like chimes or sleigh bells. Short buzzy tones, ruffling of paper or some kind of grassy material, and rising scales on the guitar are quite beautiful; like a small ritual in some ashen street. The vocals that begin “How Did The Election Go” butt their way into the calmness of the previous track. What was once a calm after the uprisings begins some introspection on the events that unfolded in the revolution. Voices speak over each other, some doubling the text during specific lines, while the guitar tunes in the background. It’s as if the opera takes a break to gather its bearings and prepare for the last third.

cheap&easy OCTOBER – CD release from Object Collection on Vimeo.

I absolutely loved the opening to “It Could Lead To A Transformation.” The deep bassy synth and sustained guitar feedback bring a fantastic gravitas to the forefront; it is indeed a welcome transformation. Unfortunately, the vocals were a bit distracting again; agitated recantations of the text take away from the weight of the whole sound. It may just be personal taste, but I would have loved to hear calmness emerge instead–a true transformation–rather than going back to something that’s been consistent and predictable throughout. That said, the last three minutes of this track are absolutely fantastic. It all seemed to come together, somehow. The ending of the previous track bleeds into the beginning of the closing track, “It is Everywhere, It Is Within.” Spacious beats, calm vocals, deep bell-like tones from the synth; It is a surprisingly beautiful ending to the album–incredibly effective and moving.

“To start a revolution you must change the language,” said the singers in this opera. The language of Object Collection’s noise-opera is one that’s fairly new to me. This is a genre that I admire for taking chances and trying something new, but probably isn’t one I’ll revisit again–however, there are some fantastic things happening in cheap&easy OCTOBER. Instrumental performances are on-point throughout, and despite a few moments, the vocals are provocative and powerful.

Both Ensemble Pamplemousse and Object Collection bring great things to the table with their respective releases. Ensemble Pamplemousse’s …This is the Uplifting Part brings sharp and strong video editing that supports performances of pieces, which are at once strange, intense, and even peaceful and beautiful. Object Collections cheap&easy OCTOBER brings the noise, the ferocity, and the “shriekstemme.” The wanton vocal performances are elevated by ferocious punk-energy-filled stylings. Both collectives demonstrate that coming together as an ensemble– both as composers and performers–can produce wildly imaginative and energetic works of art.