Reich: Mallet Quartet; Sextet; Nagoya Marimbas; Music for Pieces of Wood

Reviewed on Wed 27 Apr, 2016

Third Coast Percussion keep everything neat and tidy so that there are no rhythmic hiccups to catch you off your guard.

The most recent work here is Mallet Quartet (2009), which frames a gently rocking slow section with mellow motorized ostinatos topped with treble chiming. Sensitive balancing creates the illusion of three dimensions. The more dramatic four-movement Sextet (1985) suggests the chromatic world of its immediate predecessor The Desert Music, though this time the centre (two movements) features a prominent, darkly rolling bass drum – the effect here quite unlike anything else in Reich’s output. At just short of five minutes the duo Nagoya Marimbas (1994) is a good way for the uninitiated to dip a toe into Reichian waters. It’s a catchy ‘earworm’ of a piece, whereas the quintessentially minimalist Music for Pieces of Wood (1973) finds us listening to a sequence that with each added note alters our perception of what we assume is the basic pulse. This sort of writing formed the very hub of Reich’s style at the outset of his composing career and it still has the power to stimulate. Third Coast Percussion keep everything neat and tidy so that there are no rhythmic hiccups to catch you off your guard. The sound is superb.
–Rob Cowan