CD review: Antoine Beuger’s Ockeghem Octets

First published in the Guardian on 6 July, 2017

Antoine Beuger: Ockeghem Octets
Various (Another Timbre)

Wandelweiser music is typically gradual, intent, whispered, sparse, not typically big on namable passions. Yet what does Dutch composer/co-founder of the Wandelweiser collective Antoine Beuger believe ‘the art of sounds appearing and disappearing, the art of approximation’ is most reminiscent of? Love. Not some cool or cerebral kind of love, either: Ockeghem Octets is part of a series of ensemble pieces (starting with duos and expanding from there) in which musicians play long, soft notes to incredibly tender and sensual effect. Choice of instruments is key, with the warm, reedy warble of concertina, accordion and harmonium given a tactile glow by cello, melodica, e-bowed zither and a pair of low flutes. The ensemble sensibility on this recording is heroically controlled, relaxed and attentive to one another’s breathing and pacing. Individual lines fade in and out to make close dissonances or almost harmonies – it’s gentle, tantalising stuff. The art of approximation indeed.