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Rubenstein, Ken: Invert And Transcend

In 2005 we wrote a very favorable review of the debut album by Fritz Doddy. That quirky album remains an all-time favorite, and featured in several best-of-2005 lists.

Ken Rubenstein's music isn't similar to Doddy's, but those two artists must have emanated from the same gene pool. Many elements of their music is similar, but where Doddy's The Feeling Of Far was fairly approachable, Invert And Transcend is an idiosyncratic form of acoustic avant garde music that will have you scratching your head and saying "I dunno what the hell that was, but damn, it's cool!"

Invert And Transcend is principally a guitar-led piece, but don't worry - it isn't just another guitar album. There are sampled inserts, there are synths, there are gorgeous vocal lines from soprano Wendy Parker, there are sections driven by unconventional bass lines, there's imaginative drumming that is sensibly restrained in the mix, and there's a lot of imagination. Multiple guitars and loops run simultaneously - sometimes beautifully synchronized, and sometimes - like in the "You're All Whores" trilogy, where they're oddly chaotic - yet in their dissonance and disharmony they work together to yield a challenging but rewarding experience. None of the 10 songs are the same, and you'll hear 43 short minutes of experimental, fiercely individualistic, off-the-wall-eclectic music. Every bar rebels against convention in a way that is at once serious and - with its uplifting, energetic tones - a whole lot of fun.

As we once said about Fritz Doddy - this music sounds like a sequence of happy accidents that just happen to work together, and were casually thrown onto a CD for the hell of it. In fact - this project took ten years to complete, and on closer inspection, the attention to detail becomes clear - and Rubenstein will be the first to tell you that you really have to work at sounding spontaneous. Ken Rubenstein received a New Jersey Council on the Arts Composer's Fellowship in 1995, he was composer in Residence for the New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Workshop in New York City, and as a math professor in Oregon he sometimes challenges his students to fret a guitar according to a Pythagorean-tuning scale. (The Pythagorean intervals present an approach to musical tuning in which the frequency relationships between notes are calculated mathematically - long story.) So although he's self-taught, and although Rubenstein's music sounds a bit casual, it's cerebral stuff.

At first listen you might be ready to write this off as an amateurish attempt at music by someone with a jangly guitar, a bit of imagination and a lot of studio equipment. But after many listens it became clear that this record earns close to top-marks. It isn't the most approachable music you'll hear, and will doubtlessly have limited appeal, but this is progressive music with a capital 'P'.

Track Listing:

  • Yuwadee Sang with Love and Joy
  • Smallest Words
  • Xin Gap Lan
  • You're All Whores trilogy
  • Song For Paul
  • Broms
  • Lament for Saint Thomas of Canterbury
  • Invert and Transcend
  • Woe Be Unto Thy Tangible Soul
  • Beatrice Foley

  • Added: December 23rd 2007
    Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
    Related Link: The Artist's MySpace Site
    Hits: 2116
    Language: english

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