Pronounce the name “CalArts” these days, and ghost voices crying “Tenney” and “Pisaro” will immediately haunt your surroundings. Ingrid Lee — who started her musical adventure with a mix of punk and classical piano as a youngster — belongs there, Mouth To Mouth being the first recorded expression of a music influenced by conceptions and individuals residing in the same piece of land. Still, she does attempt to look into something (slightly) different inside the realms of imperturbable movement and soundless concentration, including in-between vacillations.
If anything, Lee appears earnestly intrigued by the conflicts (and potential resolutions) of upper partials in diverse instrumental configurations, and is not afraid of propelling the mechanisms with a higher degree of momentum when necessary, besides treading not-exactly-new paths through the psychological enhancements of muteness. In that sense, “Of Monsters” is a gently charming, yet rather characterless Wandelweiser derivation for piano and accordion, whereas “Cells” utilizes the sonorousness of a pair of snare drums to shift from Lucier-like subtleties to invasive vacuum-cleaning drones.
The finest work is situated in the record’s second half: “Bead, Spit” begins as a commonsensical study in pitch decay and meshing overtones to end into nervous reductionism; regrettably, an unnecessary element of percussive irregularity at the endmost extremity detracts a bit from the score’s overall rigorousness. The final “Another” is a beautiful string quintet plus vibraphone, investigating varying nuances of austere growling, gradual wavering and aslope adjacency, occasionally evoking remote memories of composers such as Ingram Marshall and John Luther Adams (superficial comparisons, confessedly; but that’s what came to mind when trying to discard the condemning thoughts frequently associated to albums coming from a “school” which, in this writer’s position, is not as historically relevant as someone would love us to believe).
In spite of everything, this is a solid enough outing deserving absorption and patience. The composer’s freshness adds that little quid of “listener’s involvement” to scores that — in other circumstances — might probably represent the umpteenth case of inadequate acoustic consequence following an inordinate quantity of suppositional profundity.