Like some exquisite morsel, Donna McKevitt's Cut leaves an aftertaste that lingers long after its sixteen minutes are over. That shouldn't come as a complete surprise, considering how much ground the British composer has covered in her career to date: gigs as a violist and singer with Nick Cave, Tricky, Moby, and Michael Nyman; former and current membership in Miranda Sex Garden and The Mabuses, respectively; and work with Derek Jarman on his final film Blue. Following his death, she set a number of Jarman's poems to arrangements for voices, viola, and cello on her acclaimed Translucence album. As of this writing, she's composing material for photographer Emma Summerton for a number of fashion-related projects and recently wrote the score for the film The Fold.
It's Cut that is McKevitt's immediate concern, however. A self-professed attempt to blend early music and modern minimalism, the EP presents six strings-driven settings, three of them featuring vocals. “Gush” establishes a luscious classical ambiance immediately when string patterns cycle insistently and multi-layered voices evoke the devotional tone of sacred cathedral music. Aptly titled, the music gushes forth in supplicating waves, its stirring vocal lines referencing both Western and Eastern traditions as it does so. Even more animated is the title cut, whose rhythmic liveliness McKevitt amplifies with a full orchestral palette of woodwinds and strings.Nyman's influence is apparent in a couple of ways. Like him, McKevitt alternates confidently between allegro and adagio forms, and it's not uncommon for a vivacious setting (“Cut”) to be followed by a vocal lament (“Dido”). Of the six pieces, it's “Fly” that's closest in style to Nyman; there's its hydraulic rhythmic thrust for one, plus melodies that yearn and soar in suitably Nyman-esque manner. If there's anything dissatisfying about the release, it has to do with brevity. Certainly any of the pieces could have been developed further and presented as a setting twice its length. McKevitt herself has used the term “miniature Brandenburg Concertos” to refer to some of the pieces; in a more perfect world they'd simply stick around a little longer.