CD review

Ryan Pate – ‘Calamities of Silence’

Ryan Pate – Calamities of Silence
(Pateco Music. CD and digital download. Review by Julian Maynard-Smith)

We all have diverse reasons for choosing recorded music; perhaps we’ve heard it on the radio, seen a video, been to a concert, had a friend rave about it, or followed a musical family tree (for example, we liked the artist as a side player so get an album on which they’re the leader). Sometimes we have no such cues, but we’re intrigued by the track titles, artwork or line-up – and for this album it was all three.

Who wouldn’t be intrigued by track titles as mysterious as Calamities of Silence, Between Indifferent Skies, Mirrors of Disquiet and Love in Animosity? Or a cover photo in black and white that could pass as a still from an American noir movie: a lone pedestrian at night walking under scaffolding, silhouetted against streets drenched in rain and street lighting? Or a line-up mixing the usual (guitar, piano, synths, alto sax, drums and percussion) with the less usual (bass clarinet, flute and accordion)?

Easy to decide to listen to these tracks, then – but much harder to know how to describe them when stylistically they feel as elusive as their mysterious titles. The most straightforward piece to describe is Mirrors of Disquiet, a spacious arpeggiated guitar solo from Oakland-based Ryan Pate that at times hints at one of his named influences, Bill Frisell. Pate says he’s listened to a lot of ‘contemporary classical music focusing on texture and colour’ and that’s evident on the eponymous opening track Calamities of Silence, which builds up from synth washes and sparse piano to a multi-layered tone poem full of piano plinks, tinkling percussion and shards of bass clarinet improvisations by Aaron Kruziki. It could almost be part of a film score for the imaginary movie suggested by that moody cover photo.

Intricate overdubs mean that on Between Indifferent Skies we hear Kruziki not only on bass clarinet but also flute and alto sax. At nearly 14 minutes it’s like a jazz suite in miniature, a loosely woven mood piece that gradually builds rhythmically when joined by the drums of Devin Gray. Love in Animosity traverses a lot of moods in under eight minutes: multi-tracked bass clarinet slightly reminiscent of John Surman, an agile guitar solo, a lovely interplay between guitar and bass clarinet and the liquid piano of Omree Gal-Oz, an orchestral woodwind section (the overdubbing of Kruziki’s bass clarinet and fluttering flute particularly effective here) and a complex layering of guitar/reeds/piano/voice to finish.

At only 32 minutes this is a short album, but it packs in some intriguing music. Pate’s debut album Human/Alien was an elegant quartet at times reminiscent of another of his influences, Pat Metheny, after which Pate released a couple of solo guitar albums. Calamities of Silence, his fourth album, represents a significant stylistic departure, so it will be interesting to see where he goes next.

LINK: Calamities of Silence on Bandcamp

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