Thomas Bartlett & Nico Muhly – Peter Pears: Balinese Ceremonial Music

ThomasBart

You may not know of Thomas Bartlett but I guarantee you that you’ve heard his shit. He also goes by Doveman, which helps fucking no one. Thomas has worked with or produced (one aggressively huge deep breath in): Sufjan Stevens, The National, Joan as Policewoman, Chris Thile, Sam Amidon, Magnetic Fields, Antony and the Johnsons, Father John Misty, Lisa Hannigan, Adrian Crowley, Eminem, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Glen Hansard, David Byrne, Julia Stone, St. Vincent, Sharon van Etten, Plastic Ono Band, Iron & Wine and so many more. This dude is hugely influential in music. His scent is in every fucking candy bowl in the goddamn candy store. His birthday party is basically a weirder and better version of the Grammys. 

The other half of this duo is Nico Muhly, one of the more unique and interesting contemporary classical composers out there right now. Not only is his solo shit cutting edge; and he’s done arrangements for the likes of: Jónsi, Ólafur Arnalds, Joanna Newsom, Grizzly Bear, Sufjan Stevens, and Bonny “Prince” Billy; but he’s also part of the Icelandic collective/recording label known as the Bedroom Community, which is cool as all fuck.

These two motherfuckers have been working together ever since their time at Columbia. The two big questions that I asked myself right away when I saw this shit were: What the fuck kind of music would these two make together? And what in the hot buttery shit is up with this fucking album name? To explain how Peter Pears connects to Balinese music, you’re going to have to hold on to those hats for a quick sec.

Back in the day, these two motherfuckers got into Colin McPhee. McPhee, a cool Canadian composer and musicologist in the dirty ’30s, brought Balinese music to the western world. Colin performed these pieces with a composer named Benjamin Britten. Benjamin Britten’s partner was a tenor named Peter Pears (Clickidy-clack-clack. Stomp. Stomp. Jazz hands.) Ta da! 

The gamelan-influenced tracks on this album are easy to spot for some reason (“Gambangan,” “Pemoengkah,” “Taboeh Teloe”). But this inspiration also bleeds throughout this record made up of whispered vocals, gentle strings, and glitchy drums. The rest of the album comes across like a mix between Sufjan Stevens, a really rough Postal Service, and a few instrumental influences of acoustic Sigur Rós sprinkled on top.

Despite all the artsy-fartsy shit, this album is easy to fuck with. It doesn’t blast or try to fuck your eardrums. It’s pleasant and easy to enjoy. Something to put on during a late night by candlelight. It just also happens to be smart as all fuck. Some might say that it’s a highly enjoyable record that each and everyone should have upon their shelves, but more succinctly, this shit’s damn good. 

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