Published Jun 01, 2016Although Rhys Chatham is known as a punk purist guitar composer, he actually started his career by studying multiple instruments, like the trumpet, keyboard and flute. On his latest release, Chatham reaches back to his flute roots, as Pythagorean Dream consists of two 20-minute compositions, one composed and performed chiefly on guitar ("Part One") and the other on the aforementioned woodwind ("Part Two").
Though each side of the album features tonally disparate instrumentation, Chatham approaches each track similarly, layering minor key sounds on top of each other (and sometimes within) to create a drone that often crescendos but rarely dissipates, focusing on the buoyant energy and hypnotic tone of each movement. Although the album uses some recording artifices and structural constrictions (including the use of Pythagorean tuning, consisting of only perfect fifths and octaves) and using multi-second delay tape loops first used by pioneers like Terry Riley and the late Tony Conrad, "Part One" is defined by Chatham's gorgeous finger-picking and hammered strumming. "Part Two," on the other hand, finds Chatham's sparse but exceptional flute forming a spatial personality amongst his abrasive guitar attack that comes off surprisingly fresh for the 63-year-old composer.
Pythagorean Dream is a qualified success because it shows Chatham moving forward with his craft, if only by simply reaching back. (Foom)