Sunday, 26 February 2012

Allen Wentz - The Periodic Table Vol.1 review

The Periodic Table Vol 1 Cover Art

With an American Music Award, 2 Grammy nominations and a variety of gold and platinum records to his name from previous incarnations, Allen Wentz, in his own words, now produces music with “…electronics, free form instrumental arrangements and a little vocal ornamentation”. The Periodic Table Vol. 1, as the title suggests, is the first instalment in a series of projects that are based upon the each of the elements in the Periodic Table. Some of the pieces that make up this collection are improvised and some are constructed for purpose. It is one of the strengths of the album that the listener would find it difficult to decide which pieces were composed spontaneously and which were prepared. Some of the compositions included were directly influenced by the elements they were named after, and some were not. But the essence of the collection is not lost whatever the circumstances they were created in.

The Periodic Table is a fascinating collection of vignettes, soundtracks to the elements they represent. “Sodium” has a tranquil feel about it that allows overlapping lines of electricity to dance throughout the track. Both “Chromium” and “Cobalt” have the spirit of drama about them that reminds the listener of the soundtrack to a police show, both suspenseful yet exhilarating in equal measure. “Cesium” bubbles along merrily before descending into a frenzied network of wires, before returning to more affable ground. “Einsteinium” is thoughtful and enigmatic, whilst “Lithium” is soaked in anticipation and further drama. “Helium” is abrasive, yet is propelled along on repetitive lines which hold it together, but, as its namesake suggests, has a light, effervescent quality. Whilst “Scandium” has a straight forward jazz piano soul, which somehow sets it apart from the other elements, but does not allow itself to interfere with the personality of the project. “Scandium” could almost be the incidental music to a children’s “learning to read” instructive television programme and “Beryllium” could be argued to be what Ennio Morricone would sound like if he were to be composing Western soundtracks in the 21st Century.

Each piece that makes up this first collection has a cinematic ingredient which in effect follows a narrative. It is the mark of a gifted composer, and possibly one who has an understanding of soundtrack composition, that each short piece of disparate music that makes up this volume of The Periodic Table stand up as a cohesive piece in its own right. The album is further enhanced by the adaptation of the Periodic Table by artist Linda Palmer, who has manipulated the table into an image which flawlessly suits the personality of what the composer has sought to achieve.

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