15 Shawn CrouchShawn Crouch – Chaos Theory
Various Artists
Acis APL56620 (acisproductions.com)

Hats off to Shawn Crouch. The tracks on his recent release, Chaos Theory, enchant the ear and engage the mind. Liner notes sometimes muddy the waters, but these (apparently written by Crouch himself) are brief and informative. He’s fond of circles, canons, variations, and games and puzzles too. 

Get right to listening, and give it a twice-over before coming to any conclusions. There are brilliant performances on each track, and there’s a bit of everything in the variety. My favourite is probably the easiest to get inside of: 95 South, a woodwind trio that covers the U.S. Eastern Seaboard in three large leaps. Lake Road; Dublin, NH recalls the scene of a music festival he attended in his youth. 74th and Third; New York, NY must mean he lived in Manhattan for some of his early adulthood. It varies from frenetic to meditative. Bay Drive; Miami Beach, FL is the finale of the piece and the place where parenthood overtakes other concerns. Dedicated to his son, it stands in sharp and welcome contrast to the more angular writing elsewhere.

Not that there’s any problem with the buzzing zigzags of the other pieces on the disc. A lengthy and cerebrally conceived solo sonata for cello is convincingly rendered by Craig Hultgren. A pictogram in the liner notes, probably Crouch’s own work, helps explain the tonic gravitational energy that propels Orbital Variations. This one needs more time to tell its story. I look forward to hearing it again.

It’s so good to hear music that explores new sonic worldscapes while remaining idiomatic, such that the instrumentalist makes use of their strongest technical ability bringing the work to life. Crouch is old school in that regard, proving that solid compositional technique still makes for the most listenable avant-garde music.

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