The Kronos Quartet / Wu Man, Terry Riley The Cusp of Magic

Terry Riley’s history in composition weaves its way from his foundation in minimalism through improvised work with synth and sax, flirting musically with VU aesthete John Cale, numerous commissions from ensembles the world over and most frequently with the Kronos Quartet. Which brings us to this latest release by Kronos and pipa player Wu Man. The title, Cusp of Magic, refers to the day between Gemini and Cancer, and also the summer solstice. Add to this the invocation of peyote rituals and children’s toy instruments and one has in their hands a CD laden with mystical references. Fortunately, it doesn’t suffer from the lack of rigour that afflicts many such offerings. The pieces are strung together in a series of movements, each with its own mood, exploring the connective aspects of primal revelry and celebration, which are divorced from arid ritual. A-rhythmic bass drumming and shakers punctuate the strings, lullabies echo loneliness, toy instruments evoke playfulness and darkness all at once, and present the world as a place of transformation. A place where darkness and light exist as one. This is a beautiful and thoughtful work that carries one along without letting go. (Nonesuch)