sat 20/07/2019

CD: Jherek Bischoff – Cistern | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jherek Bischoff – Cistern

CD: Jherek Bischoff – Cistern

A dramatic change of direction for the American composer

Bischoff's Cistern is an immersive piece of work

When David Bowie died in January, one person quick off the mark with a striking and respectful tribute was the American composer Jherek Bischoff with Strung Out in Heaven – a string quartet medley of half a dozen of Bowie’s songs. And in fact we‘re back in Bowie territory here in that these tentative yet austere instrumentals are full of romantic yearning and physiological unease reminiscent of the ambient sides (in vinyl terms) of the thin white one’s Low and Heroes.

The main difference is that Bowie, Brian Eno and Tony Visconti utilised synthesisers and Bischoff has a preference for orchestral instruments only occasional augmented by an electric guitar carrying a lead melody or a drum beat resounding like a distant explosion. The American composer’s first album, 2012’s Composed, was a lushly orchestrated collection of song collaborations with singers that included David Byrne and Caetano Veloso that swam close to kitsch yet was oddly compelling. This one is a darker affair, perhaps because it was both conceived in and recorded in an empty two-million-gallon water tank.

The heartbreaking beauty of “Closer to Closure” brings to mind John Adams or even Sibelius at his doom-and-gloomiest. The lush orchestra strings of “Cas(s)iopeia” are made more evocative by being placed on a bed of what sounds like distorted church bells. “Headless” brings to mind Bowie’s “Crystal Japan” although the homemade fragility of the latter makes it the superior composition.

There’s much to admire but some pieces fail to deliver on initial promise, relying too much on circling around an oft-repeated motif that ends up leading nowhere. But maybe that was the composers intent: relative stasis brought about by the relative sensory deprivation of the recording space. Although perhaps the fact the album was completed in a converted 19th-century church was a blessing in disguise.

This one is a darker affair, perhaps because it was both conceived in and recorded in an empty two million gallon water tank

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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