New York based ensemble Hypercube (Erin Rogers, saxophones; Jay Sorce, guitars; Andrea Lodge, piano & accordion; Chris Graham, percussion) releases "Brain on Fire," including works written for them by Sam Pluta, Philip Schuessler, Erin Rogers, Dennis Sullivan, and Nicholas Deyoe. Building on a growing repertoire anchored by Louis Andriessen's iconic Hout, Hypercube emphasizes the experimental, avant-garde potential of this quartet instrumentation with impressive performances and a cultivated ensemble sound.
|02||American Tokyo Daydream IV (data structures / monoliths)|
American Tokyo Daydream IV (data structures / monoliths)
|04||they solidify then tilt|
they solidify then tilt
New music quartet Hypercube (Erin Rogers, saxophones; Jay Sorce, guitars; Andrea Lodge, piano & accordion; Chris Graham, percussion) releases their debut “Brain on Fire,” a bracing document of their contributions to the repertoire for their instrumentation. The works presented here establish a strong aesthetic identity for the ensemble through their embrace of electronic elements, refined gradation of noise textures, and virtuosic navigation of complex material.
Composer, percussionist, and electronic musician Dennis Sullivan writes music that revels in collage textures, quick jump cuts between contrasting expressive worlds, and stylistic allusions. In under nails, scrapes, descending glissandi, and brief, cartoonish scale bursts are occasionally interrupted by ominous fragments of death metal vocals. As the piece progresses the elements become more integrated as Sullivan glues them together into hybrid instrumental gestures. Just before the six minute mark, the piece returns to the primordial scratching sound world heard in the opening, now heard as a sustained texture. The death metal vocals return periodically, and the ensemble is given a couple of tutti vocal passages on the line, “Hold on to your,” separated by creaky, disjointed sounds. The final section of the piece highlights Sullivan’s capacity to create electronic analogues in his ensemble writing, with written out crossfades between instruments and a scoring of extended sounds that mimics spatialization.
Sam Pluta’s music is also shaped by his deep involvement with electronic music, as well as a fascination with acoustic phenomenon and improvisation. American Tokyo Daydream IV (data structures/monoliths) is influenced by the Japanese noise scene as well as a modular approach to motives that will be familiar to listeners who have heard the Wet Ink Music Collective (of which Pluta has been technical director and a composing member since 2009). Chord masses ordered and reordered in angular fashion are connected by ascending and descending glissandi, delicate trills, quick descending arpeggios, and high squeals. Sustained chords in the accordion colored by saxophone multiphonics and light triangle hits anchor a section of brief repose before a dense reprise of the opening material. In the dystopic final section of the piece, the electric guitar plays an extended passage of ascending glissandi with a slide over a massive cauldron of noise dominated by sax multiphonics.
Philip Schuessler opens his Liminal Bridges with a pointillistic texture — fragments reminiscent of Morse code are traded between instruments and lead into large arrivals, like architectural pillars. As this pulse driven music develops, the instruments alternate inserting elaborated figuration in the cracks of the established scaffolding. Throughout the work Schuessler plays with the speed of the repeated pulse motive, creating layers of independent activity in the ensemble as well as distorting the listener’s sense of linear time. Whimpering, chromatic descending passages and compact ensemble mechanisms anchor the middle section of the work before the piece slowly loses its textural continuity, disintegrating element by element and ending with a cymbal screech and a lone guitar harmonic.
Los Angeles based composer, guitarist, and artistic director of the wasteLAnd series Nicholas Deyoe writes powerful music that fuses his interests in noise, microtonality, and dramatically expressive structure. they solidify then tilt is a twenty minute tour de force that features Hypercube guitarist Jay Sorce. The work opens with a guitar arpeggio that highlights a microtonal tuning, as the ensemble slowly washes over the guitar in murky waves. Deyoe explores the beatings that result from closely spaced microtonal intervals, integrating guitar detuning, whammy bar dives, and tremolo on high partial harmonics into the fabric of the writing. Rich chord voicings in the accordion color the expressive character of the slowly evolving sections. Insistent distorted notes in guitar, raw overblown multiphonics in the sax, and aggressive percussion briefly break the work out of its contained intensity. The pulsating waves of the opening return with vigor before the piece closes with a series of disembodied guitar chords over a haze in the ensemble.
The final work, Casino (Remix) on “Brain on Fire” is by Hypercube’s own saxophonist and composer, Erin Rogers. After a dense, dramatic opening featuring descending wails in the saxophone, Rogers creates a pinball machine-like mechanism in the ensemble, bouncing sounds off of one another. The music opens up into an ethereal cloud, with a swirling halo of electronics providing the backdrop for a simple melody in guitar and percussion akin to a music box while the saxophone plays high trill figurations. The trills serve as a common link to the following section over a distorted low pedal point in the guitar. Sparring scales between guitar and sax culminate in several ensemble attacks worthy of a Hitchcock climax, while an unnervingly calm vocal sample emerges underneath. Casino (Remix) closes with the bone chilling passage from the opening.
With “Brain on Fire,” Hypercube makes an impressive and indelible stamp on the repertoire for an instrumentation that traces back to Louis Andriessen’s iconic canon, Hout. Gravitating towards composers who embrace the avant garde while still celebrating instrumental virtuosity, the ensemble has charted a compelling and dynamic path forward through these commissions and their polished and commanding performances of these works.
Recorded by Zach Herchen at Staller Center for the Arts and Adelphi University — Long Island, NY
Funded, in part, through grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the Alice M. Ditson Fund
Editing & Mixing: Zach Herchen, Nicholas Deyoe
Mastering: Joseph Branciforte
Art: Alberto Grillasca
Known for high-energy performances and impressive execution, Hypercube embraces the boundaries of chamber music, spanning electric and acoustic worlds. Described as “jarring, compelling” (Washington Post) and “fearless and flawless” (Sequenza 21), the quartet has commissioned and performed dozens of cutting-edge works for saxophone, guitar, piano and percussion.
Named a “rising star” (Broadway World), saxophonist/composer Erin Rogers is co-artistic director of thingNY, Popebama, New Thread Saxophone Quartet, and Hypercube, and has performed with the International Contemporary Ensemble, wildUp, Wet Ink, and Talea. Featured on the Ecstatic Music Festival, Prototype Festival, MATA Festival, Decoder's “Unterdeck,” and NYmusikk Bergen (Norway), Rogers has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, the Edmonton Fringe Festival, Centro Nacional de las Artes Mexico City, and the Park Avenue Armory. She can be heard on New Focus Recordings, New World Records, Edition Wandelweiser, and Gold Bolus labels. Her solo album "Dawntreader” is available on Relative Pitch Records.http://www.erinmrogers.com/
A classical guitarist noted for his unique blend of refinement, intensity, and virtuosic technique, Jay Sorce has performed throughout the United States and in Canada, Mexico and Germany as soloist and chamber musician. Highlight appearances include performances at the Long Island Guitar Festival, Iserlohn Guitar Festival, Tuckamore Festival, Brooklyn’s UNPLAY festival, the East Bank concert series, and at New York’s Staller Center for the Performing Arts where his solo recital was hailed as “simply brilliant” (Jerry Willard).http://www.jaysorce.com/
Andrea Lodge has been hailed as a “Must-See.” A specialist in the performance of contemporary music, she was awarded top prizes at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Canadian National Competition for the Performance of New Music. Andrea lives in New York City where she performs regularly as piano soloist and with Hypercube, a cutting-edge new music quartet of saxophone, percussion, guitar and piano/accordion. Hypercube has been bringing their music to new audiences with tours across the U.S.A. and abroad, as featured artists on the FIMNME Festival of New Music in Mexico City, the Charlotte New Music Festival, Now Hear This! Festival of New Music, Music on the Edge, and the Ritornello Chamber Music Festival. Their first album, “Brain on Fire” is due to be released in May of 2020 on New Focus Recordings.http://www.andrealodge.com/
Chris Graham is a new music specialist living and working in New York City. Chris has consistently worked and performed with notable groups such as Newband, Ensemble MISE-En, Talea Ensemble, Talujon Percussion, Mantra Percussion, and is a founding member and director of Hypercube and Iktus Percussion. He has commissioned and premiered works by established composers such as Charles Wuorinen, John Luther Adams, and Michael Gordon. Currently, Chris teaches drums and percussion at the Kaufman Music Center for the Special Music School and Lucy Moses School programs.http://www.chrisgrahampercussion.com/
Brain on Fire (New Focus 250; USA) New York based ensemble Hypercube (Erin Rogers, saxes; Jay Sorce, guitars; Andrea Lodge, piano & accordion and Chris Graham, percussion) releases Brain on Fire, including works written for them by Sam Pluta, Philip Schuessler, Erin Rogers, Dennis Sullivan, and Nicholas Deyoe. Building on a growing repertoire anchored by Louis Andriessen's iconic Hout, Hypercube emphasizes the experimental, avant-garde potential of this quartet instrumentation with impressive performances and a cultivated ensemble sound. HYPERCUBE has built a reputation on high-energy performances with impressive execution. The NYC-based quartet embraces the boundaries of chamber music, featuring cutting-edge works for saxophone, guitar, piano and percussion, while spanning electric and acoustic worlds. “Jarring, compelling” (Washington Post) “fearless and flawless… some of the most exciting playing I have ever heard.”
Ms. Erin Rogers plays sax, composes and has a great solo sax disc out on Relative Pitch from a few months ago. She also played a solo set here and made some new fans that night. Ms. Rogers is also a member of this quartet, Hypercube, and she wrote one of the five pieces here. Another piece here was written by Sam Pluta, who also plays electronics and is a member of the Wet Ink Ensemble. Pluta’s piece, America Tokyo Daydream IV, is incredible and reminds me what I like best about modern chamber music when it is filled with surprising twists and turns, each sound carefully placed and tightly connected. Extraordinary and rather Zappa or Zorn-like in the way it keeps shifting dynamics throughout. Another highlight here is Ms. Rogers’ Casino (Remix), which is also explosive and is constantly shifting through various lines all the way through. The other three pieces come from composers I hadn’t heard of before now, but all are equally fascinating. This disc is a bit longer than an hour and I have listened to it in its entirety several times and it just keeps getting better!
— Bruce Gallanter, 6.15.2020
Hypercube is a new ensemble comprised of saxophonist Erin Rogers, electric guitarist Jay Sorce, pianist and accordionist Andrea Lodge, and percussionist Christopher Graham. This is their debut recording, and all five pieces are heard in their recorded premieres. Four were written expressly for the ensemble, while the fifth, Sam Pluta’s American Tokyo Daydream IV (data structures / monoliths), was newly arranged for this album.
Hypercube’s instrumentation looks close to that of a jazz or rock group on paper, and there is a biting rock attitude to the music here, but the group and the composers stretch the orchestrations and timbres to their limits—this is a record that collects all sorts of unexpected and arresting sounds. It’s also at the leading edge of contemporary thinking and practice, the playing as sharp and precise as a scalpel, the music stabbing and exploding in all sorts of directions. It can all seem initially discontinuous until one feels the accumulation of musical ideas building organic, angular, muscular structures in the ears and mind. Dennis Sullivan’s opening under nails and Rogers’ own concluding Casino (Remix) make for a bracing start and a witty conclusion that will have one quickly reaching to hit the PLAY button again.
— George Grella, 6.22.2020
Ensembles playing other people’s compositions don’t often carry the force of personality that a band playing its own music does. Hypercube manages to hit on both counts. They draw from their own (Erin Rogers is on of the five composers here) and own the work of others (Nicholas Deyoe, Sam Pluta, Philip Schuessler, Dennis Sullivan).
— Kurt Gottschalk, 2.10.2021
All of the works on this disc seem to derive from a rather consistent aesthetic perspective. The music is not tonal and reflects an openness to the exploration of a highly imaginative approach to timbre. It is full of unexpected turns, avoiding much in the way of repetitive patterns. I am reminded of what my generation used to call music of the avant-garde. As I reflect on that notion, it seems irrelevant and antiquarian by today’s standards. Yet, without that notion, I am left without a vocabulary to categorize this music. The music is consistent and each work sounds firmly rooted in its own aesthetic expression. While some may find similarities to the work of composers Earle Brown, some of Stockhausen and even Ornette Coleman, I was overwhelmed by what I observed to be the unrelenting intensity in music on this disc. All of the composers seemed very focused on articulation and clearly, based on the consistency of the music, have given their work an immense amount of thought. It brings me back to the days when, as a young composer, I found Karkoschka’s book Notation in New Music a revelation, opening a door to a wide range of innovative possibilities of articulation and instrumental techniques. Clearly, these days I rarely encounter music of this sort where there is such focus on such a diversity in articulation. As an attentive reader can tell, I am having a great deal of difficulty trying to convey any sense of this music.
under nails by Dennis Sullivan has a ghostly, nightmarish quality to it. The music is highly Pointillistic, without any traditional sense of line. I was unable to discern a form or structure to the piece. Yet, somehow, the music had an odd sense of continuity to it. As disjointed as it is, it held my attention. There are fleeting moments of consonance and reflection. The music is very troubling, taxing to the ear, and at times seems very sad and empty. It requires a very open mind and attentive listening if one is to derive any communication from it.
The music of Sam Pluta was only slightly more conventional. Many will hear only instrumental “screams” and the pounding of instruments. It is music full of anger. As with the music of Sullivan, it did not evince any particular form or shape. However, the music displays sufficient contrast that I came away with some sense of a musical argument.
Philip Schuessler’s Liminal Bridges is probably the most accessible work offered. I did not have that much trouble in finding a sense of a protracted musical expression. There are moments of repose which provided this listener with some focus.
With its use of microtones at the beginning, the work of Nicholas Deyoe has a seductive quality to it. It is a curious mixture of what is, at times, music that is very sensitive, almost Impressionistic versus music of extreme dissonance. I found the music troubling and yet very haunting.
The work by Erin Rogers was very direct in its expression. The music conveyed to me a great sense of power and an attention to detail. The dissonance was rather consistently without relief. I wondered if there was not some intent to shock or confound a listener.
Hypercube consists of Erin Rogers, saxophones; Jay Sorce, electric guitar; Andrea Lodge, piano and accordion, and Christopher Graham, percussion. Not having any scores, it is impossible to respond, with any certainty, as to the accuracy of the performance. Yet what I heard sounded very convincing and displayed an immense attention to expression. All of the works are highly complex and would require great virtuosity, dedication, and concentration on the part of each player. Clearly all of the performers seem up to the task. These are remarkable musicians. The recorded sound has an excellent immediacy to it, a sound quality which seemed completely appropriate to the intensity of the music.
— Karl F. Miller, 9.15.2020
First, before anything is said about the release at hand, let’s clear up what Hypercube is. If you go searching on Bandcamp you’re likely to run across Hypercube, a London computer-based musician named Rodrigo Passannanti, with over two dozen releases to his credit, but that is not this Hypercube. For the purposes of this review, Hypercube is a New York City quartet working the extreme boundaries of chamber music, opting for cutting-edge experimental works for sax, guitar, piano, and percussion. Interestingly, four of the five pieces on this, their debut release Brain on Fire, are commisioned pieces by composers outside the group, only the fifth and final piece Casino was written by saxophonist Erin Rogers, the remaining members being Andrea Lodge (piano and accordion), Jay Sorce (guitars), and Chris Graham (percussion), and of course electronic sounds figure into their palette as well. By this time one may be wondering what this all sounds like. The opening thirteen-minute piece Under Nails composed by Dennis Sullivan is an exemplary introduction, a sound that seems to wander freely through the wilds, bursts of percussion punctuating random piano sounds and sax elaborations, fading to black occasionally, sounding almost like a free improvisation at times, but overall the process is too precise to be anything but scored. There’s even a little harmonized vocal bit “...hold on to your” followed by an outburst of distorted electric guitar that happens at roughly seven minutes in, and then again a couple minutes later, amid seemingly random percussive noodling. American Tokyo Daydream IV by composer Sam Pluta takes a more angular approach with higher density melodic sounds, though still many edgy jagged corners still abound. Other compositions include Philip Schuessler's Liminal Bridges and Nicholas Deyoe's They Solidify Then Tilt, each with its own unique character, executed precisely by the ensemble. This collection of avant garde compositions is probably best experienced first hand to be understood, and fortunately Hypercube’s Bandcamp site (link included below) makes that entirely possible.
— Peter Thelen, 7.16.2020
The debut disc by the American ensemble Hypercube documents the groups contribution to the repertoire for their instrumentation: Saxophones (Erin Rogers), electric guitar (Jay Sorce), piano and accordion (Andrea Lodge), and percussion (Christopher Graham). They trace their instrumentation back to Louis Andriessen’s canon Hout.
The first piece is under nails (2016) by composer and percussionist Dennis Sullivan, wherein diverse musical gestures, from mysterious “new music” whisperings to Death Metal vocals to music for cartoons, initially clash through juxtaposition before finding some sort of integration. An interesting facet of Sullivan is that he revels in the imitation of digital sounds by analog instruments (such as crossfades and spacialization). This is disjunct, modern music, but it is curiously approachable through its very zaniness. In the initial stages at least it can go from gesture to gesture without any clue as to what is coming next. The performance has the sort of ferocious concentration one expects from groups who push the envelope (one also thinks in this regard of the London Sinfonietta, Psappha, and the Manchester Collective in the UK). Hypercube seems to set new standards of virtuosity, all in the service of the music it supports.
The memorably named American Tokyo Daydreams IV (data structures/monoliths) of 2007 by Sam Pluta is influenced by the Japanese noise scene and operates in a modular way: chord clusters connected by a variety of glissandos, screeches, and the like. As in the case of the Sullivan, there are some remarkable textures that one would naturally associate with electronic music. There are some fascinating sounds per se: accordion and saxophone multiphonics simultaneously, for example.
Certainly block chords moving around the registers seem to imply gestures inspired by electronic music, as do those multiphonics, while again the pure “noise” of an electric guitar suggests an outside influence. The original scoring of accordion, saxophones, and electric guitar was adapted specially for Hypercube.
A completely different experience emanates from Philip Schuessler’s Liminal Bridges (2016), which begins with a sort of post-Webernian Pointillism. There are discernible arrival points that delineate the structure of this fascinating 11-minute piece, a work rendered fascinating by its elusiveness. Scored for alto saxophone, electric guitar, piano, and percussion, it seems to reveal particular sensitivity to harmonic sonority from the composer; the work’s eventual dissolution is carefully planned and executed.
The longest work on the disc, Nicholas Deyoe’s they solidify then tilt, puts the spotlight on Hypercube’s guitarist Jay Sorce. There’s something of a feint going on here, in that there is a lot of incident, but it feels so very slowly evolving. Notable is the way the composer works with the “beatings” that result from microtone clashes. (Anyone who has played in an amateur orchestra and experienced an unintentional “chromatic unison” with his or her neighbor will know what the resultant “beating” feels like.) The feeling of slow, organic evolution is inescapable; almost as disconcerting as the overall feeling of dread the piece exudes are the moments of near-consonance. Dayoe writes with a real awareness of the power of silence and near-silence. The difficulty in performance here is one of sheer control, and it is beautifully, even hauntingly, done.
The group’s own saxophonist, Erin Rogers, is also the composer of the final piece Casino (Remix), perhaps unsurprisingly impeccably written for these forces. Sounds seem to ricochet in the sound-space (the online notes on the music refer to a pinball machine, and the analogy is fully justified). Bright, vital, alive, and full of delicately shining beauty, this is the perfect close to the disc (and probably my favorite piece). The recording standard is top-notch. This is a great debut disc by the American ensemble Hypercube: haunting, unsettling, moving. As to how to write “Hypercube,” I remain unsure: it is good old-fashioned capital letter at the start then lower case on the disc back cover, but all capitals on the ensemble’s own website. However one writes it, this is a great disc.
— Colin Clarke, 11.15.2020
Border crossing, boundary melting, mind stomping, and otherwise pulverizing the walls of history and syntax all seem to constitute huge portions of Hypercube’s Modus operandi. On its debut release, the saxophone, keys, guitar, and percussion quartet (Erin Rogers, Andrea Lodge, Jay Source, and Chris Graham respectively) does just that in what it would be folly, along with what the Velvet Underground might call a drag or two of truth, to call grand style.
The five compositions the group caresses, dismembers, and plows through certainly provide a fertile playground for such sonic diversity. Check out the initial scree and squall of Casino (Remix), courtesy of Rogers. Filling the soundstage with descents that purr as much as scream, there’s something silky about it all before the dizzying drop toward near-silence and what sounds initially like Pointillisms redolent of 1960s European free improv. It all turns out to be extremely precise and incredibly virtuosic, as illustrated by aperiodic repetitions and sudden dynamic shifts. The beginning’s reasserting itself is downright magical, nearly inevitable, after what has been, all along, a slow build toward just such an assault on the senses. By way of welcome contrast, Sam Pluta’s American Tokyo Daydream IV (data structures/monoliths) drops as some kind of Anthony Braxton and Frank Zappa hybrid, not such a foreign concept after some discussion with certain AACM members who were absolutely au fait when it came to Zappa’s work. If those proportional rhythms don’t conjure shades of Braxton’s Ghost Trance work in its final stage of development, nothing will, but Zappa’s humorous dynamic meltdowns, timbral juxtapositions, and rhythmic intrigue are all over what is quite a sonic journey.
The album’s centerpiece is doubtless Nicholas Deyoe’s slow-burning and often deliciously sludgy they solidify then tilt. Its atmospheric approach to space means that sounds can bloom and recede at gorgeous length, allowing the group inordinately long opportunities to stretch. Accordion and saxophone sometimes whiplash forward as though playing in reverse, there are occasional bursts of distorted guitar and percussion, but everything seems to emanate from the silence immediately preceding and succeeding it.
In this, Deyoe’s piece shares some ground with David Lynch’s semistatic cinema, and the guitar timbres do evoke the 1950s-heavy “waiting room” chord from Twin Peaks at strategic points. Such timbral allusions are Hypercube’s finest offering. As with Naked City, whose work these stunning players must know, timbral switches abound, rendering history yet another false boundary to be eradicated at every turn. The disc as a whole speaks to similarly layered views of time and space, opening ears and altering states. Pervading it all, as with the best chamber music performances, is the overwhelming sense of transcendent fun, or deep joy, in music-making. The music is as good as the musicians are capable.
— Marc Medwin, 11.15.2020