“Relâche” is taken from Erik Satie’s 1924 collaborative ballet whose absurdist title on the theatre marquis translated to “no performance today.” Since 1977, the band’s work with composers such as John Cage and James Tenney, and with the most thoughtful (and fun!) organized sound of today has tested music’s limits – if not its strict definitions then certainly the cultural boundaries negotiated by so called “art music. Relâche’s aim has never been to play “safe” music. In music, when composers and performers relinquish their assumptions of structural and social parameters, the audience’s thrill – our thrill – of the unexpected catches us vulnerable, and the results can be frightfully sublime, innocent, or hilarious. As one of Relâche’s founding members, Guy Klucevsek knows this as well as anyone. Revisiting his compatriots with a set of works whose explorations of modality are deceptively simple on first hearing, Klucevsek’s echoes of Eastern Europe reflect both the dance repertoire of his accordionist training in the outright catchy Wing/Prayer, and the sobriety of (dare we say) Górecki in Still Life With Canon. Placed in contrast to the epic introspection of Cynthia Folio’s work and Mark Hagerty’s gear shifting, Klucevsek’s punctuations – particularly his dances – subversively offer a more wry notion of the “play” in this recording’s title.
Relâche’s pianist Andrea Clearfield recalls, “The first time I heard the ensemble, they were walking around this performance space with their instruments, playing long tones. I had never seen or heard anything like this, and I knew right then I had to be a part of it.” Relâche’s involvement with audiences is one of invitation, wherein listening is part of the performance: even as sound finds your ears and resonates in your body, it reverberates back to its source. In light of this, perhaps a recording seems a one-sided gesture for a group so invested in dialogue. On the contrary, however, with Relâche’s end of the exchange already composed, performed, mixed, mastered, and printed, the real surprise will be what you bring to the conversation: react, question, smile, remember, forget, and immerse yourself, but whatever you do, Press Play.