The Calder Quartet’s (Benjamin Jacobson and Andrew Bulbrook, violins; Jonathan Moerschel, viola; Eric Byers, cello) new digital-only release, Eclectic Currents (Pentatone), showcases their commissioning work between 2011 and 2014, before violinist Tereza Stanislav replaced outgoing founding member Andrew Bulbrook. According to cellist Eric Byers, “We felt it would be a nice thing to share during Covid, when we can’t perform or make new recordings—something we dug up from our archives that we can make available during these crazy times.” With electronics playing a major role in three of the works, it could have been called Electric Currents.
All the works emerge slowly into existence, taking music that’s basically black and white and turning it into music noir which, as Andrew Norman’s Sabina makes clear, is going to have the intensity of a late-Beethoven quartet in a repetitive dialog, with each of the instruments playing many parts.
The three movements of Andy Akiho’s String Quartet No. 1,based on the adventures ofa Calder-like triangular mobile, get seriously complicated, their momentum supplied by a relentless internal clock, featuring snatches of syncopation and melodic flirtations, major cello pizz riffs, as in practically all the pieces, and occasional frenzied dancing. The crickets in Nathan Davis’ Skrzyp Skrzyńare achieved as the bow scratches the strings, attacking in wonderful downward swoops like birds snatching insects in their beaks. Tristan Perich’s Interface glows, burps, and pops before a sea shanty takes the music to extended harmonic spaces like bagpipes.
The recording, laid down at Allegro Recordings, not far from downtown Burbank, provides startling spatial information in a wide-open acoustical soundscape with the dimensions of a planetarium.