Grand Haven, MI
- ICYMI: A special @newsounds with Bill Ryan and members of Bill Band: t.co/iLkKi6ioae
- Grand Valley State music students perform commissioned pieces at the #nationalparks @GVSUNME @NatlParkService t.co/q5SWeoc7Iy
- “@thadanderson: @andybliss their version of Blurred, for percussion ensemble, was esp. great. Never thought it would work for perc. so well!
- My complete spread of newly acquired Bill Ryan discs/projects. Thanks, @billryanmusic! t.co/K3WzZYJjjy
- Another year-end mention: RT @thesilentballet: TSB's Top 100 Releases of 2013: 80-71: t.co/ijZQztO8sT
A lot has happened since the 2004 release of Billband’s debut album on innova, Blurred. Where that album was called “gritty and funky” by Gramophone, the group’s new album, Towards Daybreak, turns more personal and showcases the broad palette of composer/leader Bill Ryan. Though still firmly rooted in the minimalism of Steve Reich and Terry Riley (Ryan is the founder and director of Michigan’s Grand Valley State University’s New Music Ensemble, the group behind innova's releases of In C Remixed by Riley and Music for 18 Musicians by Reich), Towards Daybreak is by turns contemplative, roiling, spacious, and aggressive, reflecting experiences in Ryan’s life from the birth of a child to the loss of his parents.
Opening with the elegiac “Simple Lines,” the ensemble of Ashley Bathgate (cello), Vicky Chow (piano), David Cossin (percussion), Michael Lowenstern (bass clarinet), Pablo Mahave-Veglia (Cello), Jonathan Nichol (saxophone), and Todd Reynolds (violin) leads the listener through the album’s open doors into a lush work for strings that sets a reflective tone. The record then builds slowly, piano entering alongside vibraphone on the title track before the sandy susurration of brushed drums opens up “Rapid Assembly.” As the rhythms settle into a percolating groove, this is where the album begins to open up its depths.
Grammy-winner Silas Brown engineered and co-produced the album with Ryan, their third collaboration, and the attention to the sound shines through. The strings are rich and woody, the percussion viscerally captured, the winds as present as if in your living room. As a whole, Towards Daybreak blends the precision and craft of the best minimalism with the distinct humanism and interplay of a small chamber group. This is a music that reveals itself gradually, working its way deeper into you with each listen.
“[R]eally outstanding; from ... exquisite writing, to the production and the top notch performances, this is a wonderful new recording from the inimitable Billband. While many composers in this genre rely on the seductive rhythmic or modal qualities imported from pop music and minimalism for their allure, [Towards Daybreak] instead relies on a mastery of form and proportion.” [FULL ARTICLE]
“Terse, elegant motifs shift shape and move between constantly changing combinations of woodwinds and strings, usually pensive, often somber and occasionally building to moments of sheer horror. … That Ryan never lets the music become mawkish or sentimental is its strongest suit: subtlety and grace triumph despite all odds.” [FULL ARTICLE]
“Bill Ryan is slow to release – his last album goes back several years – but if he has to take his time to come up with gems like Towards Daybreak, so be it. … [A]n easy listen that takes hold of your emotions, without overdoing anything, without playing it too sweet. It’s a masterpiece.” [FULL ARTICLE]
“[A] fine example of a post-minimalist/alt-classical chamber ensemble. … [D]irect and clear musical ideas well-paced and orchestrated for his mixture of performers. Even in his more driving works, Ryan has a delicate hand at orchestrating his ideas. Each instrument has not only its own musical space but also serves a vital role in creating a single ensemble sound.” [FULL ARTICLE]
"[T]he minimalist exactnesses in the opening tracks of Towards Daybreak are an expression of hesitancy ... a nice metaphor for the transformation effected by success or sunlight and not overworked or really too obvious. ... The best moments of the album come with nice, quiet, witty effects." [FULL ARTICLE]
"[A] very rewarding glimpse into Ryan’s style and capabilities as a composer. … Ryan illustrates his creativity and flexibility in scoring for diverse instruments. The tinkling piano and crystalline texture of the aptly titled 'Sparkle' is a perfect example; the soprano sax solo that creeps in adds to the mysterious beauty. … I recommend this highly and cannot wait to hear more from Bill Ryan!" [FULL ARTICLE]