CD review: Riley’s In C, Slagwerk, Ragazze, Kapok

First published in the Guardian on 30 June, 2016

Riley: In C, Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector
Ragazze Quartet/ Slagwerk Den Haag/ Kapok (Channel Classics)

Terry Riley wrote In C in the early 1960s as a gleaming, free-wheeling utopia: a blissed-out soundbite of non-hierarchic social empowerment in which one person plays a repeated C (the first performance at San Francisco’s Tape Music Centre featured a young Steve Reich laying it down on a Wurlitzer) while the rest of the gathering thrums along with 53 variously interlocking little phrases. The piece became a 20th century classic and has been performed a zillion different ways, from 15-minute miniatures to multi-hour epics. This latest Dutch version clocks in at 40 minutes and combines chipper-sounding string quartet with percussion ensemble, taking the music into a cheesy kind of party groove after a polite start. It’s fun and breezy if not a whole lot more.  The disc also contains a dubiously ‘jazzy’ take on Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector, originally for string quartet, here with added horn, electronics and percussion. It’s all innocuous and inventive enough, but I wanted ten times more grit to the sound.