KnitFac, Austin-style

<!– Link: The Golden Arm Trio

When I let the Golden Arm Trio’s Why the Sea Is Salt just play while I’m mindlessly working on something else, I forget that I’m not listening to downtown New York musicians. I forget I’m not listening to the Kronos Quartet or the Brodsky Quartet.

The Golden Arm Trio, which is really Graham Reynolds and however many musicians he needs to realize his muse, performs music that could have come straight from the Lower East Side.

Reynolds works within the strict limitations of the Western classical tradition, but like the best downtowners, he creates work distinctive to his own voice, not beholden to the fashions of academia or the weighty confines of “art music.”

The Austin Chronicle describes Reynolds as “post-Zorn.” Wayne Horvitz seems like a more parallel comparrison — a composer with a distinct way to create hooks from the most unlikely harmonies.

Why the Sea Is Salt veers from pieces with solid thump-whack drums beats (“Swift Ship Sailing”) to string quartets (“Poor Brother Percival”), from bouncy, celebratory tunes (“Finster Crumley”) to poignant, mournful melodies (“The Old Woodcutter”).

And that’s only the first six tracks.

The Tosca String Quartet dominates this recording, performing on six of the album’s 19 tracks. The Tosca has a tight, energetic sound and an obvious inter-player chemistry. Under Tosca’s hands, Reynolds’ pieces sing.

Perhaps the most brilliant aspect of Why the Sea Is Salt is a lack of pauses between tracks. One pieces runs into the next, giving the disc the feel of being a complete work. No album in recent memory has ever included such an array of timbres, styles and instrumentation and still felt like a cohesive opus.

The Golden Arm Trio is simply the best.