Two over-20-minute microtonal compositions by variations of the strings, reeds and percussion of Norwegian Ensemble neoN not only yield provocative listening but also recognize how the sub-genre has evolved over time.
To Two Tea Roses by Phill Niblock (b.1933), with its miniscule microtonal displacement, borders on a solid mass as the six-piece group begins playing a collective crescendo and continues with an unresolved drone throughout. While separate layers of thickness and intensity give the choked program shape and fascination, individual instrumental identity is curtailed.
In contrast, Parallaxis Forma by Catherine Lamb (b.1982) sets up a program where seven instrumentalists contrast and comingle tonalities into a musical wash that parallels a vocal exposition from Stine Janvin Motland and Silje Aker Johnsen. As the singers’ voices drift in and out of aural focus, their closely related lyric soprano timbres unite in near church-like harmonies or pull apart with tremulous pitches, trade leads, hocket or reach protracted pauses. Eventually, the thickened buzz that develops from these sequences allows individual tones to peep outwards as the piece undulates to its conclusion.
Without jarring moments, this program still rewards deep listening as it provides unparalleled sonic definitions in dissimilar interpretations.