Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fighting For The People's New Free World

Kronos Quartet – Black Angels

Given all the cringe worthy attempts at protest music that the soft cocked mainstream losers that call themselves the rock and roll of today have given us over the last couple of years, it's just as well classical music is around to do it right.

The majority of Black Angels' running time consists of performances of Shostakovitch's Quartet No.8 and the titular composition by modern composer George Crumb. Crumb's piece is a reaction to the Vietnam war and as is appropriate for a historical event which casts such an unpleasant and shameful cloud over today's world the music itself is disquieting to say the least. The abrupt, brutal start of Dillinger Escape Plan's Miss Machine is nothing compared to this albums opening, which with no warning drops violins shredding tritones at high volume and pitch; a great early morning workout for your ears. It's not most people's cup of tea but nevertheless if you have a tolerance for avant-garde unpleasantness its a great performance.

Shostakovich's Quartet is in contrast far more listenable, like 'Black Angels' it is a requiem for those who died in a war, in this case for the huge loss of life suffered by the Russians in World War 2. I've never listened to Shostakovitch before but I found this piece very beautiful and I can see why he's so highly regarded.

In between these two performances are a couple of shorter pieces. 'Spem in Alium' ('Sing and Glorify') is a very old baroque piece inspired by the biblical story of Judith. The peacefulness of this work is a very well chosen contrast to the violence of 'Black Angels' which precedes it. 'Doom. A Sigh' is another avant-garde modern piece, based on recordings of an obscure brand of traditional Romanian music that was wiped out by the Soviets in the communist era. Finally there's 'They Are There!', a World War 1 era patriotism song reworked into a sarcastic repudiation of jingoism. 'Spem in Alium' I like a lot, whereas the other two are a bit too avant-garde for me, but still don't detract from the album as a whole.

And there you have it. One antiwar album, no simplistic comparisons of George Bush to Hitler, no embarrassingly stupid politics and best of all no fucking Green Day.

No comments: