Andrew Rowan is the latest artist to release on Brooklyn based label/collective Susan Records. The last one I covered was Benjamin Louis Brody’s “Oscillations” and between these was Louis S. Cohen’s “Winter”, which I wasn’t able to squeeze in. “Tanya Largos” is a chamber piece scored by Rowan for violin, viola, cello and electric guitar and is released on July 30th.
“Tanya is the name of a sculpture by my late father—a larger-than-life rendering of a model by the same name. Regarding the sculpture, my dad’s friend and colleague Bob Clyatt described it as “looking with a subtle eye at the energetic body … the play of light on plane, on skin…” and with “attention to the underlying gesture and proportions.” Tanya occupied a looming presence in my life for several years and there are similar concepts at work in this music through direct and indirect influence.
Most of the material for the three movements was written when my dad was very sick, so there are elements in it that now feel indicative of my experience with anticipatory grief—wrestling with lethargy, cyclical and negative thinking patterns, anxiety—on and on. The music is characteristically unhurried (largos) and dark, with sparse moments of light and joy.” – Andrew Rowan
“Whole Days Will Move In The Direction Of The Rain” long emotive string drones hold still before being pulled ever so slightly into a short mournful wailing section. As the track progresses it follows this path for a few more movements before exploring this feeling more. Fragile picking, long drones and fluent chord progressions paint sound more than say, a rhythm. The cello’s deep rumbling drone underpins the violin and viola, while the electric guitar for some reason to me sounds very similar to fast repetitive piano playing and has a spindly touch to it. The music has an undulating quality as if you are riding on top of wavy seas.
“Tanya” sounding straight from a noir or suspense film, the guitar and strings paint an introspective soundtrack that feels like a person is looking inside themselves and as you can read above about the personal nature of the sculpture and what it means to the composer, his relationship with his father and when this music was written. The music does change dramatically from its opening which is indicative of the emotions it concerns. It gets progressively more intense with the cello leading the way before the violin and viola start screeching madly in furious motion. The music starts to become percussive and pounding with strikes to the instruments cutting through with thuds, as the strings all reveal an emotion that has been let out after being held in for so long. Towards the end the music is just represented by this thudding, as if a resignation of things that have happened/been happening.
“Ghent in Vermillion” after a brief drone section, this track follows a similar feel to its predecessor in that Rowan is very adept at creating a suspenseful cinematic piece it utilities slow pace and repetitive motifs to emphasize its feel, and the way that the instruments interact and overlap each other shows a depth to the composition. There is a feeling in the second half of the track that light has been admitted in as the music becomes more delicate and almost playful with its picking and plucking of the strings.
“Tanya Largos” is a highly enjoyable release. Within its sixteen minutes it packs in emotion and draws in the listener with attention to sounds and the way instruments fuse together to create these pieces. It shows a composer adept at creating music that tells a story, but also allows for the listener to interpret things for him/herself. A note must be made of the fine performances of Adrianne Pope (Violin), Lauren Elizabeth Baba (Viola), April Guthrie (Cello) and Gregory Ulhmann (Electric Guitar). It also heralds Susan Records as one to take note of. Recommended.