Michael Vernusky | Blood that Sees the Light

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Electronic: Experimental Avant Garde: Classical Avant-Garde Moods: Featuring Guitar
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Blood that Sees the Light

by Michael Vernusky

Composer and classical guitarist Mike Vernusky's debut release-- featuring dark works for an intermixture of electronic and acoustic instrumentations.
Genre: Electronic: Experimental
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Blood that Sees the Light
9:02 $0.99
2. Tanah - flutes and electronic sound
10:55 $0.99
3. Arc - solo piano
13:50 $0.99
4. Means and Meditations
10:12 $0.99
5. Selah - guitar and fixed electronics
8:15 $0.99
6. Drawn Inward - string orchestra, harp, piano
9:31 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Michael Vernusky's intriguingly titled Blood That Sees the Light is an eclectic mix of tracks ranging from lush electronic soundscapes to sharply defined acoustic instrumental pieces. Binding them together is Vernusky's sonic palate, which tends towards haunting environments that slowly flex between rich consonances and crackling dissonances. Though a number of tracks create subtle timbral drifts which morph though various permutations, there are enough striking and well placed instances of abrupt onslaught that that one hesitates to relax too deeply into the swirl. Indeed the organization of the tracks on the disc as a whole seems to reflect an awareness and careful planning of this parameter. From the beginning of the opening track, which definitely falls into the lush dreamscape category but includes a beautifully handled moment of striking abruptness, we are put on alert that this is not music intended to flow graciously by.

The darkly dramatic sensibility of the sound as a whole is immediately observable in the artwork that adorns the carefully designed packaging. The CD booklet exchanges the standard text based program notes for much more evocative collages of dark, semi-focused photographs accompanied by beautifully somber paintings of color-clouds. These photographs reveal the performer of the composition to which they are connected, which for the electronic pieces of course consists solely of machinery. I should probably mention that program notes do in fact exist for most of these pieces, as I discovered while exploring Vernusky’s website (www.alasseis.com). However, since the composer obviously made a conscious decision that these were not necessary for the listening experience, I decided not to read them before writing this review.

Of the six tracks on the disc, I will focus on the four that include electronics, two of which are for tape alone and two for solo instrument and tape. The title track, Blood That Sees the Light, is perhaps the moodiest piece on the disc. One of the more arresting elements of this track involves the above-mentioned abrupt jolt, which occurs early on (after the first minute of nine), and is never repeated. This has an interesting effect on the listener – a certain tension of expectation is created which serves to increase the uneasiness of an already tense and restless piece. Indeed there are several moments where the music appears to build toward another such entrance, and its denial is very effective in enhancing the discomfort. Now kindly forget that you read this when you listen for yourself…. Overall, Blood… can be divided roughly into two sections, based on the quality of the sounds at play. The first part utilizes gradually shifting clusters, while the second part includes more concise gestures and adds elements of noise and metallic sounds. This creates a refreshing expansion of the palette approximately half way through the piece.

The second track, Tanah, is for “flutes and electronic sounds”, according to the CD booklet. Placing these two pieces back to back provides a nice bridge, as Tanah begins in a similar vein as Blood…. The opening noise gestures are soon revealed as breath sounds of a flute as they begin to take on more pitch, creating a breath-sound chorale. The addition of the flute itself is deftly handled with multiphonics that easily blend into the existing sound world. The flute, once it has solidly emerged from the underlying texture, is well balanced throughout, and easily fades in and out of the foreground as it trades prominence with the electronics. When in front, it tends to lock onto and repeat short motives, an effect which further emphasizes its momentary detachment and allows it to drift back into the texture as it relinquishes its hold on the gesture. As the acoustic instrument fades away, the electronic sounds tend to become more agitated to fill the space created.

The fourth track (after Arc, for solo piano), Means and Meditations, provides a distinct contrast from the previous material, especially Blood…. The piece is much more frenetic, relying on shorter gestures and sudden movement. For this piece, the CD booklet is uncharacteristically forthcoming, providing a wealth of textual information about the song: “an experiment in texture and momentum.” In all seriousness, this does give a fair description of the most interesting and salient developmental aspects of the piece, the form of which tracks these two parameters. The aforementioned frenetic material, which tends to be quite noisy, gradually gives way to ghostly echoing sounds with longer individual lifespans, though this process is by no means linear. By the end of the piece, we have returned to the original sound world, giving the piece a roughly ABA form. Aside from the surface interest of the textures themselves, it is the non-linearity of the transformations that provides the piece with its formal appeal.

Selah, for guitar and electronics, again provides a sharp contrast with the previous track. The electronic part tends toward much purer, almost sinusoidal tones which swell and recede while the guitar moves freely about this harmonic tapestry. Vernusky, a guitarist himself, controls the instrument confidently and with fluency, though the part shies away from virtuosic display. Initially the two sources are independent entities, but they soon begin to influence one another’s behavior. As part of this process, the electronic sounds begin to take on more qualities of the guitar, reacting to it occasionally in imitation. The sounds throughout are for the most part quite delicate, both on the part of the electronics and the guitar. Overall, the textures tend to create a simple, clean surface – a characteristic that is often difficult to handle but is accomplished nicely in this case.

It should also be noted that this disc is the first release from the relatively new Quiet Design Records label (http://www.quietdesign.us/), run by Vernusky himself. This has the makings of an interesting little label, with three releases on its roster thus far. Though Blood… certainly lies within the realm of “art”/concert music, Quiet Design does not appear interested in restricting itself to this genre, and I look forward to further releases. --P. Bloland, from the forthcoming SEAMUS Journal

When people think of Texas, they don't often think of experimental music, but Austin-based composer Michael Vernusky is quietly countering that perception, taking his unique music across North America, to Europe & Japan. Four years in the making, his debut LP showcases meticulously detailed performances of his emerging talent. Listeners new to his sound are likely to remark at how well he balances electronics and acoustic languages. The music takes you along an emotional journey through passages of meditation, despair and hope. The ethereal spaces, lushly dissonant harmonies, walls of noise, and the varied instrumentations demonstrate a musical language of a refined and impassioned taste. If only Ambiances Magnétiques was based in Dixie...
Triage Music International


More info can be found at www.alasseis.com



to write a review

Chain D.L.K.

Ambitious and Impressive
Let's face it, it's extremely hard these days to make palatable "experimental" music in any genre, or even develop a unique style. Under the aegis of the award-winning Michael Vernusky, however, there just may emerge a perfect variant in the realm of "serious" music. This young and accomplished classical/noise-collage artist has turned in an ambitious and impressive array of drone-and-klang-accompanied chamber pieces -- a side of rusty razor wire with your filet mignon, if you will.

In fact, let's imagine that this is one such dinner party, at which the first thing everyone hears is the title track, a swelling barrage of ambient menace, bringing to mind (for those of us with Industrial leanings) Reptilicus and maybe some of Laibach's Macbeth. But then track two, "Tanah," surprises us with a hissing alien demon who leads the way through a futuristic chamber piece for "flutes and electronic sound." "Arc," an intensely moody, brooding piano solo, has intricate and interesting modern phrasings in six movements, which means we've made it to the main course without too much wine and hors d'oeuvres. For the next course, "Means and Meditations," we've now left the chamber and stumbled out into the aliens' subway system, with snapping, spitting third rails and groaning vehicles howling electronically by -- and then on our way back in, we stop only to listen to a solo classical guitarist playing a somber prayer ("Selah") amid the sound of the otherworldly metropolis thrumming in the background.

Now we've come to dessert, the live orchestral "Drawn Inward." There unfortunately is some dissonance in this last track, but kudos must be given to Vernusky for not copping out and doing it all on synth. In any case, by that time you and your dinner guests should all be in a catatonic stupor of pleasurable, drunken angst. I'm putting in my RSVP for the maestro's next soirée, which should be sensational, if this foray is any indication.
-Perry Bathous, Chain D.L.K.

Tokafi. com

Between the tonal and atonal
In a still fairly recent interview, Ned Rorem complained about the fact that most contemporary composers care all about sound and arrangement and nothing about developing melodies and harmonic progressions. Well, Mr. Rorem, here’s a composer for you: Hailing from Austin, Texas, Michael Vernusky is an artist with deep interests in both of the aforementioned aspects of his trade, as well as in a simultaneous exloration of classical orchestral means and up-to-date electronic technques. “Blood that sees the light” is the beginner’s guide compendium to his repertoire.

It is not hard to see why. While Michael has been around for quite some time, composing and scoring the music to films such as “Means and Meditations”, this is actually his first and only offical release. With contributions recorded as far back as 2002 and as recently as 2005, it also constitutes a sort of sampler with highlights from his steadily growing catalogue and offers a glimpse at a style between the chairs, marked by a string of fine nuances differentiating him from the fold: He loves to work with sound, but he is not so head-over-heels in love with it to prefer it above structure. As a guitarist, he enjoys the instrumental performance aspects of his works, but never allows them to be an end in themselves. He writes “serious”, daring and adventurous pieces, but isn’t afraid to occasionally dab his feet into catchy and accesible waters. And finally, he loves to work with intuitive mechanisms, but has a knack for using them as a counterpoint to dense, highly “composed” passages of harmonies scraping the border between the tonal and “atonal”. On the three tracks of “Blood...” he has recorded singlehandedly (or at least without any external assistance), this approach leads to intense, occasionaly disturbing soundscapes of flexible and changing moods, which never lose their organic surface despite the sometimes severe amount of processing involved in their creation. As he points out himself, though, collaborations have also been an important part of his art and it is quite possibly easier on “Blood that sees the light” to discern his own voice when it is juxtaposed with the input of others – the romantic flute figures of Karmen Suter or the luscious string arrangements on the grand finale “Drawn Inward”, for example. Even when he is not even physically present, such as on “Arc” for solo piano, Vernusky is never far away, first splitting the music up in short islands of interrupted themes, before jumping on the train of a hypnotic groove.

He is by no means afraid of “entertaining” his audience and the diverse nature of the material on the album marks him as a composer who wants to be heard by a public which isn’t exclusively made up of colleagues or professors. There is, however, something else going on here, which extends beyond these terms of limited value. Throughout this CD, I had the strong impression that Vernusky is using different instrumental settings to illuminate certain fundamental principles from various angles and with different means, as if he were trying to get across the same wordless message with each track (whatever it may be). It is this combination of inward coherence and outward versatility which makes him a recommendation to more than just Ned Rorem.
By Tobias Fischer