This double-headed reissue is a timely reminder of the place of minimalism in contemporary music. Reich’s two masterpieces were recorded by Kronos Quartet and Pat Metheny in 1989 and 1987, underlining the modernity of the work as well as the virtuosity of the performers, both fully embracing the aesthetic of repetition amid graduated shifting of lines to create the sensation of stillness within motion and motion within stillness.
From a purely textural point of view Metheny’s work on Electric Counterpoint is masterful, as his interweaving of electric and bass guitar, done live against pre-recorded parts that he played, feels cohesive and kaleidoscopic. As for Kronos’ rendition of Different Trains it has a startling emotional as well as musical arc. The whirring strings combine with taped speech to give a sense of an American life unfolding against the historic backdrop of war, holocaust, migration and reconstruction. It is a fearless exercise in soul baring and sonic imagining.
Steve Reich/Kronos Quartet/Pat Metheny – Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint [Nonesuch]