Iâ€™ve been listening to â€śThe Wholeâ€ť for days now. Â In each piece, process and finished work are deeply intertwined. Â None of the elements – snare, cymbals, tom, hammered dulcimer – obscure each other, even while they lean and press upon the others. Â These pieces find a melodic path through repetition.
As the album opens, dulcimer melodies rise and fall in the foreground. Â Here, the physical attacks are as important as the progression of intervals. Â â€śRemembered Asâ€ť highlights the decay on individual notes and clusters, allowing each enough space without losing momentum.
Chants and a continuous snare roll immediately distinguish â€śHeartsâ€ť from the compact opener. Â Vocal layers, some short monosyllables and others held tones, interlock and shift atop the steady percussion. Â One layer uses slight shifts in air support that create passing dissonances with the other vocal sounds. Â 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 â€śRemembered,â€ť 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. Â 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 Muellerâ€™s interest in and admiration for the Shakers. Â While the â€śThe Wholeâ€ť is visceral and satisfying on its own, the album also gains a lot from this broader intellectual context. Â Muellerâ€™s interviews with other musicians and his reflections on www.rhythmplex.com further illuminate the care and craft behind his music.