The Bang on a Can All-Stars have recorded their first studio album in five years; the first to include the All-Stars' current line-up: Ashley Bathgate, cello; Robert Black, bass; Vicky Chow, piano; David Cossin, percussion; Mark Stewart, electric guitar; and Evan Ziporyn, clarinets.
With Big Beautiful Dark and Scary, the Bang on a Can All-Stars show off their blazing speed, polyrhythmic virtuosity and all-world versatility in a return to the core Bang on a Can sound - an uncategorizable supermix of classical and electric instruments that is part classical ensemble, part rock band, and part jazz sextet. The album is the first in a decade that features the All-Stars exclusively, rather than as part of a collaborative project. Each of the pieces on the double-CD calls upon a different kind of virtuosity, demonstrating the range of musical abilities and experiences arguably unique to this ensemble. Recorded in New York City, all of the music on Big Beautiful Dark and Scary (including the arrangements of the works by Conlon Nancarrow) were written for and premiered by the Bang on a Can All-Stars.
The album features Four Player Piano Studies by the legendary recluse Conlon Nancarrow, who lived most of his adult life in Mexico City. Without regular access to musicians, Nancarrow wrote much of his music for player piano, resulting in music that escapes the limitations of human performance and is nearly impossible for live performers. For the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the key word here is "nearly." In fact, the Bang on a Can All-Stars have been championing a number of these studies in breathtaking arrangements by Evan Ziporyn that bring out the music's extreme, machine-like, rapid fire rhythmic layering alongside Nancarrow's bluesy, boogie-woogie feel.
Big Beautiful Dark and Scary's title track was written by Julia Wolfe. Wolfe, who was a witness to the 9/11 tragedy, standing with her young children two blocks from Twin Towers when the planes hit, captures the feverish post- apocalyptic feeling of living in the wake of 9/11 with an ominous wall of sound that has the Bang on a Can All-Stars playing at full throttle. For the premiere in April 2002 Wolfe wrote, "This is how life feels right now."
David Longstreth contributes three new works to this album: Instructional Video, Matt Damon, and Breakfast at J&M. Longstreth, who, like Kate Moore, was a composition fellow at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA, captures the off-beat quirkiness that he has come to be known for as the mastermind of indie sensation Dirty Projectors.
1.Big Beautiful Dark and Scary
4.Music from Shadowbang: Angkat
5.Music from Shadowbang: Ocean
6.Music from Shadowbang: Meditasi, Head
9.Breakfast at J&M
10.Four Player Piano Studies: Study 2a
11.Four Player Piano Studies: Study 3a
12.Four Player Piano Studies: Study 3c [ MP3 ]
13.Four Player Piano Studies: Study 11
14.Life: Part I: Wind
15.Life: Part II: Couple
16.Life: Part III: In the distance
17.Life: Part IV: Light