Stereo is King

Stereo is King

Classical music for instruments and electrons
Mason Bates
Mason Bates
Tania Stavreva
Claremont Trio
Grand Valley State University (GVSU) New Music Ensemble
Musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music

Burlingame, CA

Release Date: 
Mar 25, 2014
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Crossing boundaries is nothing new for composer and electronica artist Mason Bates. As comfortable with staff paper as he is DJing (under the name Masonic), Bates has already garnered acclaim for works commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony (where he serves as composer-in-residence) and others. Here on Stereo Is King -- his first release since his 2009 debut, Digital Loom -- he takes his listeners on a wild ride through chamber music, choral music, and electronica, featuring performances by Tania Stavreva, Claremont Trio, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) New Music Ensemble, Chanticleer and musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

From the title track’s combination of electronics and an array of percussion to the angular syncopation of “White Lies for Lomax” -- an homage to the early, anonymous blues musicians recorded by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax -- Stereo Is King explores the possibilities of a broad range of sonorities, refusing to exclude any genre by fiat and instead embracing whole the wide world of music. “Observer in the Magellanic Cloud,” performed by Chanticleer, drifts high above in a place where distant future meets ancient past. “Difficult Bamboo” begins minimally and grows wildly out of control. Bill Ryan and the GVSU New Music Ensemble deftly navigate “Terrycloth Troposhere,” an ode to Terry Riley that repurposes motifs from his seminal “In C,” while “String Band” is grounded in bluegrass and old-time string band music.

Throughout, Bates’ voice comes clear from within the diversity of approaches, ensembles and styles. It is his balance as a writer and envisioner of modern music that envelops the past while moving confidently into the future that ties Stereo Is King together into a comprehensive statement by a talented young composer.


"Listeners waiting eagerly for the music of Bay Area composer Mason Bates ... will find sustenance in this magnificent new compilation. ... [F]rom jaunty rhythmic studies to Space Age choral music to exquisite evocations of vernacular Americana ... all of it thrives on Bates' trademark blend of inventiveness, expressive tenderness and cheeky, ebullient wit." [FULL ARTICLE]
Joshua Kosman

"Mason makes a music of our time that has his particular original voice stamped onto it. ... Mason Bates has a fertile musical mind that comes through here in ways that reward the listener with something complex enough, substantial enough to keep interest level high and yet quite accessible even for those who may eschew a brasher modernism. Well done! Bravo!" [FULL ARTICLE]
Greg Edwards

“This new and fascinating collection of some of [Bates’] smaller scale works illustrates his eclectic approach quite well. [‘Observer in the Magellanic Cloud’] reminded me of some of Berio’s vocal works … a truly attractive work. … With its pitch bends and repeated cells, [‘String Band’] leads us on a ride that suggests bluegrass and eventually sounds almost familiar. … [Bates] is still a young man but one who has an amazing grasp on the music of various disparate cultures from many points on the globe. He also clearly believes in the capacity of music to unite or to create commonality.” [FULL ARTICLE]
Daniel Coombs

“[A]n inspired recording blending traditional classical instrumentation with ambient electronica textures … Cutting edge yet remarkably accessible has Stereo Is King a definite winner for those in search of slightly more advanced new music. A sonic feast for the senses!” [FULL ARTICLE]
Brent Black

“‘Stereo Is King’ … explodes that tired contention [classical new music that's actually enjoyable to listen to cannot, ipso facto, be any good] with subversive glee. [It] shows the composer's sly penchant for infusing classical compositional procedures with playful vernacular elements that energize and finally transform the classical elements. … [B]rilliantly played.” [FULL ARTICLE]
John von Rhein

“Less atmospheric than structured, [Stereo Is King] consists of six distinctly autonomous works that have little in common with each other beyond the broader genre. Where Bates utilizes electronics, it is with the greatest of refinement and respect for the organic nature of his compositions. … [T]he title track is by turns primitive and ambient. … The otherworldly ‘Observer in the Magellanic Cloud’ hovers in a space that is both retrospective and modern. … [‘White Lies for Lomax’] is a stunning display of intricate blues playing and a highlight of the recording. … [Bates] leaves the listener free of typical expectations and open to endless possibilities.” [FULL ARTICLE]
Karl Ackermann