Bryce Dessner & The Kronos Quartet: Aheym (ANTI-) - album review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #48 - November/December 2013 - HAIMBryce Dessner & The Kronos Quartet



Nov 21, 2013 Bryce Dessner & The Kronos Quartet Bookmark and Share

Perhaps you know Bryce Dessner as one fifth of indie rock laureates The National. But don’t assume the Ohio-born guitarist cut his teeth plucking out grunge tunes in his parents’ garageYale doesn’t hand out master’s degrees in music for nothing, after all.

Dessner moonlights as a composer; his talents as the architect of a large body of contemporary classical music has seen him collaborate with the likes of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, David Lang, and Nico Muhly. But despite steadily building up a significant repertoire, recordings have, up until this point, been somewhat elusive. In fact, Aheym marks the first widely available recording of Dessner’s work at all.

While “aheym” might be a Yiddish word meaning “homeward,” this collection of four works for string quartet is far from homely. Performed by contemporary classical stalwarts Kronos Quartet, the disc opens with the roaring viscera of its title track. Initially, those agitated rhythms serve to completely cleanse the palate of all expectation, but before long, a listless, lilting motif sparks a sense of vagrant intrigueperhaps a nod to Dessner’s grandmother, whose emigrant past forms the conceptual basis for this work.

Elsewhere on Aheym, there’s the mounting suspense and virtuoso acrobatics of “Tenebre,” a track dedicated to Kronos Quartet’s long-serving lighting designer Laurence Neff. Closing out the album, there’s the full-bodied ensemble piece, “Tour Eiffel,” whose interlocking guitar and piano parts, prominent choral writing (sung here by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus) and steadily mounting suspense showcase a different side of Dessner’s compositional vernacular.

Above all, Aheym serves to solidify Dessner’s reputation as an autonomous musician in his own right. Dessner might have found himself a role in one of the most respected indie acts going, but that shouldn’t (and hasn’t) stopped him from flexing his classical compositional muscles once in a while. (

Author rating: 6.5/10

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