John Metcalfe A Darker Sunset

UK composer and violist John Metcalfe melds his classical training with a full ensemble of drums, strings and electronics, and with A Darker Sunset, he executes moody, ambient pieces that already outdo many down-tempo and contemporary classical efforts. Repeat listens coax subtleties in the builds of the strings or the cadence of the drum kit. Several of the mainly instrumental cuts make for grand cinematic numbers — urgent strings offset by shuffling cymbals and piano that’s alternately bright and sombre. The album offers a balance to listeners: down-tempo and trip-hop fans migrating into deeper fusions with classical approaches get an intelligent challenge; avant-garde or new music audiences can lean in for a touch of samples, diva vocals and backbeat, a dash of scratch and a black-and-white film score aesthetic. But ultimately, why codify Metcalfe’s compositions? The ensemble’s shows, by the way, make for a reportedly heady, though still highly stimulating, live experience. By filing under easy listening, music cataloguers both misfile Metcalfe and miss the point of this record’s clever intrigues. (The Big Chill)