William Susman is a pianist-composer who received academic training while enamored with jazz, Afro-Cuban musics, and various Western "popular" traditions. Little of the latter shows up here, but plenty of the former. The 17 cuts are arranged according to film scores he composed, and they strongly reflect Romantic, Impressionist, and post-Impressionist days. Grabbing ex-Kronos Joan Jeanrenaud (here) on cello and Mira Stroika (no relation to Pera) on accordion and vocals, he's crafted a CD to stand with Harold Budd, Federico Mompou, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, and Gavin Bryars.
A effulgent gauzy beauty invades every aspect of this release. Susman understands both understatement and redolence well, sketching when outlines and suggestions are appropos, painting when tapestries and landscapes demand entry. Skipping to the 13:02 ending cut, "Native New Yorker", gives perfect access to his baseline. The track is just him and his keyboards, including synths, running through an elegant set of liquid changes, a succession of deep summer / autumnal photographs and wistful memories in snatches Vangelis-istic (a la Soil Festivities).
Jeanrenaud is, as she always is, splendid on the cello and strings, perfectly backdropping and foregrounding Susman's piano in multi-tracked parts polyrhythmically hypnotic but gently so, even when propulsive. Quotes of Glass and Bryars (Hinkley - Kenny Woe and other sections of When Medicine Got It Wrong are evocative of Jesus Blood) emerge and fade into the writer's courtly mixture of vivacity and slow motion. Likewise, Stroika handles her accordion in unorthodox fashion, subordinating it in accompaniment to the synth string patches and Jeanrenaud's keening cello, later tipping in angelic choral vocal refrains.
Much of Music for Moving Pictures would not be out of place adorning Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, shifting away from Glass' episodic approach to a continuo of ambient European moods, decadence, and pastorality. He meshes with Jeanrenaud and Stroika so marvelously that it comes as a surprise to learn that the trio is not a collaborative of long standing. Regardless, this is a flawless gem, on par with Erling Wold's The Bed You Sleep In, Homrich & Gascoigne's Emerald Forest, and other superlative film scores of rare beauty and consummate aesthetic discretion. It would be perfectly at home on the planet's top label, ECM, where Susman would sit among peers like Eberhard Weber.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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