Justin Wright: Pattern Seeker
Second Best Records

Hailing from Montreal, Justin Wright is hardly the only cellist currently operating within the crossover realms of contemporary classical and electronic music; he does succeed, however, in differentiating himself from others on this four-track, twenty-one-minute EP. It's not the first project with which Wright's been involved: a decade ago, he founded Sweet Mother Logic, an instrumental outfit involving a string duet and analog synthesizers, and in the years since has created live soundtracks to silent horror films, performed with multiple Montreal artists, and become a member of Oh Hi, an up-and-coming Montreal act. Pattern Seeker came into being after Wright completed his second music residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and set his sights on establishing a new project that would blend classical instruments and analog synthesizers into an indie-classical hybrid.

As its title suggests, “Glass Alphabet” plays like a homage of sorts to the well-known NY minimalist, particularly in the way it stretches long, flowing cello lines across an insistently cycling synthesizer pattern, the contrast between the overdriven backdrop and the elegant cello playing one of the track's key selling-points; though it never completely dissolves, the separation between the instruments gradually diminishes until the cello appears to be swimming in a blurry ocean of synth washes. Synthesizers sparkle with ever greater radiance during “Tines,” their gleam approximating the expressive grandeur of an immense church organ as they do so, whereas the low pitch of the cycling patterns in “Mercury Horizon” lends the sleek material somewhat of a Philip Glass-meets-Colin Stetson vibe.

Given the evidence at hand, it would appear that Wright's attempting here some bold fusion of contemporary classical with early Glass-styled minimalism. Yet while that might be the case, he also challenges such reductionism by working episodes of different character into the compositional frameworks—a chamber-styled interlude for solo cello, for example, or an unexpected foray into prog-flavoured space-ambient territory. Adding to the music's unpredictability is the fact that the balance between synthesizer and cello often shifts from one track to another: in “Tines,” the former dominates, whereas the latter gets the upper hand, if slightly, in the EP's title track.

May 2017