Taking time out from his band Slow Six, Christopher Tignor has recorded a first solo album that consists of four new pieces, each accompanied with a radically reshaped version. This is much more than an EP with remixes, though. The re-imaginings shadow their source material, twisting and morphing it into something totally new.
Each of the odd numbered tracks on the album are chamber pieces played by violinist Colin Jacobsen and pianist Margaret Kampfmeier. “Last Thought at Night” is delicate and wistful, whilst the two “Meeting In a Colored Shadow” pieces are both steeped in a gentle melancholia. “Cathedral pt 1” is much harsher and modernist – short arrhythmic stabs of piano are accompanied by quick bursts of clustered notes on the violin, with intermittent slow fragments. Each works well as a standalone piece. They may be the raw ingredients for their twins, but they are much more than musical clay to be worked.
Having said that, the reworkings are where the magic happens. “Last Night on Eagle Street” leaves the piano unchanged, but now it functions as a calm centre amongst layers of stormy violin loops, each swelling and rolling like a rough seascape. The title track is much more low key. The electronics are subtle, but the source elements are rendered unrecognisable – synthetic but warm. “Left in Fragments” squeezes the piano into Reich-like rhythmic loops, with the violin stretched out so it sounds like something between a viola and a cello. Finally, the sharp angles of the first part of “Cathedral” are polished into a smooth, almost drone-like finale. The melodic patterns are recognisably the same. But like wrapping a jagged object in layers and layers of paper, the shape becomes an amorphous blob. The mood changes from caffeine-high jumpiness to somnolent melancholy.
Core Memory Unwound is a fascinating experiment in composition. More importantly, though, it works as an album or suite. You need know nothing about its concept to appreciate it as music. There’s a deep well of warmth and feeling to the record, and that’s the secret to its success. A triumph.
1 Last Thought at Night 7:01
2 Last Night on Eagle Street 7:32
3 Meeting In a Colored Shadow 6:08
4 Core Memory Unwound 5:49
5 Meeting In a Colored Shadow 2 8:49
6 Left in Fragments 8:14
7 Cathedral pt 1 5:02
8 Cathedral pt 2 5:23