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New Horizons: Thomas Bartlett & Nico Muhly

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Friday July 20, 2018

From RNZ Radio

New Horizons: Nonesuch Records #2 – Thomas Bartlett & Nico Muhly
By: William Dart

In the second of his two programmes celebrating the high-quality releases on the Nonesuch label, William Dart focuses on a new album from Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) and Nico Muhly, in which the world of Balinese gamelan melds with memories and dreams of Bartlett’s Vermont childhood.

Muhly and Bartlett have been working as colleagues, off and on for almost a decade and one 2009 gig had the New York Times aptly characterizing Doveman’s piano-driven ballads as having a shadowy, confessional intimacy that was accentuated by his tremulous, nearly whispered crooning.

Bartlett’s new coming together with Nico Muhly does place vocals over accompaniments that are anything but slumbering.

Muhly’s edgy, restless textures, fuelled by gamelan-like busyness, add irony to a song like ‘Festina’, taking its title from the Latin work to hurry. Perhaps to our ears the music is as much Philip Glass as Balinese gamelan, but stretched out over them, Bartlett’s rapt vocals issue timely warnings to our hurrying, scurrying lifestyles.

As for what he’s singing about, best be content with catching isolated words and phrases until you’ve immersed yourself in this world. And it is indeed Bartlett’s world, inspired by his own sayings as a baby, saved from his mother’s baby books, mixed with references to saints and other things that seemed connected with the circle of Peter Pears, Benjamin Britten, Colin McPhee and their friends.

It’s impossible not to be carried away and indeed bewitched by the ingenuity of Nico Muhly as he marshalls his small instrumental band under his friend’s vocal outpourings.

Listen to the radio program here

Read more here