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Arnold Dreyblatt – Choice

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Arnold Dreyblatt – ChoiceChoice finds Arnold Dreyblatt making his instruments and chosen musicians sing and chime from minimalism to moments of forthright completeness over two sides of vinyl which demand an honest listen and are ultimately rewarding when given such. Curated from more than thirty years (1981-2007) of live recordings, the LP is all the more remarkable for not sounding like a compilation of music made over such a long time-frame at all.

Sometimes his titles are quite literal, as in “Striking,” where the sharp brush of hand or object on strings is overwhelmed by the churn of longer sustaining tones. Tumbling strings prick the air in a frenetic parade on “Harptones” and the harmonic drones of “Regal Sustain” fill the air with the buzzing sounds of a mechanical summer. “Flowchart” is one of the longer pieces which drifts from somnolence to emergent not-quite rhythms which clatter and clack to their own particular stride. The hurdy-gurdy and spoons (or is it in fact Jason Khan at the cimbalom?) of “Sideband” give off the atmosphere of a primitivist soirée where the musicians and audience are gathered around a jug of home-brew to make and enjoy music together, while “The Odd Fellows” positively soars on cycles of brightly-played chords and omnipresent, long drawn-out flows which prod at the edges of discordance while maintaining an arresting charm.

So is it folk music or is it art? Frankly, who really cares at the distinction? It’s facile, clichéd even, to approach recordings like Dreyblatt’s as some sort of avant-garde difficult listening project. There are no songs, no hooks in a conventional sense, plenty of meandering; and the piercing whistles which introduce the hauntingly present “Organ Music for 16 Hands” are certainly a challenge which is hard to ignore. The reality on Choice is that the listener has just that – and it’s usually a straightforward decision to plunge headlong into the (mostly) joyful sounds which he produces here with a feeling of pleasure at the modestly-attired compositions and to revel in the musicianship on display from his performers.

-Linus Tossio-

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