Jon Mueller “The Whole”

October 7, 2010
By Howard Martin

I’ve been listening to “The Whole” for days now.  In each piece, process and finished work are deeply intertwined.  None of the elements – snare, cymbals, tom, hammered dulcimer – obscure each other, even while they lean and press upon the others.  These pieces find a melodic path through repetition.

As the album opens, dulcimer melodies rise and fall in the foreground.  Here, the physical attacks are as important as the progression of intervals.  “Remembered As” highlights the decay on individual notes and clusters, allowing each enough space without losing momentum.

Chants and a continuous snare roll immediately distinguish “Hearts” from the compact opener.  Vocal layers, some short monosyllables and others held tones, interlock and shift atop the steady percussion.  One layer uses slight shifts in air support that create passing dissonances with the other vocal sounds.  A cymbal crash signals a shift from vocals to dulcimer; the lines weave into the rhythmic structure of the piece without becoming the focal point.

In “Remembered,” dulcimer tones move rapidly back and forth, filling much of the space that had been left open at the start of the album, while cymbal and gong hits punctuate the descending melody.  When the last hammered note fades, I found myself surprised that the album had ended but also aware of the motion and work that produced it.

The quilt on the cover offers a visual emblem for Jon Mueller’s interest in and admiration for the Shakers.  While the “The Whole” is visceral and satisfying on its own, the album also gains a lot from this broader intellectual context.  Mueller’s interviews with other musicians and his reflections on further illuminate the care and craft behind his music.



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2 Responses to Jon Mueller “The Whole”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Twells and Type Recordings, jon mueller. jon mueller said: RT @_type: Lovely review of Jon Mueller's 'The Whole' on @foxydigitalis [...]

  2. Mueller whole | Ashtangabrasil on December 31, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    [...] Jon Mueller “The Whole” | | Foxy DigitalisOct 7, 2010 … Iâ ™ve been listening to â œThe Wholeâ for days now. Â In each piece, process and finished work are deeply intertwined. &A… [...]

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