R5 – Sean McCann – “Music For Private Ensemble” LP

  1. Introduction: Reservations / An Exchange Of Courtesies pts. 1 & 2 – 12:21
  2. Character Change – 7:30
  3. City With All The Angles – 10:30
  4. Conclusion: Our Days Of Generosity Are Over / Arden – 8:23

Music For Private Ensemble

Music For Private Ensemble is Sean McCann’s first new solo album since 2011′s The Capital. Demonstrating a more serious study of orchestration and timbre than his previous work; it is a big step forward. The four arrangements presented here shy away from the use of synthesizers and effects processing – instead relying on voicing and movement to actuate the album’s sentiments. Inspired by the grandiosity of John Adams, the concerned somberness of Gavin Bryars, and the guttural tape work of Fluxus artists.

Private Ensemble was written, recorded, and laboriously edited over the course of 17 months, composed both traditionally as well as through the clustering and organization of improvisations. McCann played violin, viola, cello, flute, piano, glockenspiel, and percussion. He was forced to notate samples of bassoon, french horn, and timpani, as those were not available resources at the time.

Taking multi-tracking to extremes, many of the pieces surpass 100 layers of instruments. However this structural depth does not lead to chaos; no sound on Private Ensemble is unintentional. The objective with the ambitious multi-tracking and precision editing was to achieve the sound of a full orchestra. The only other person appearing on the album is vocalist Kayla Cohen (Itasca), her layered singing is formed into a small choir to help conclude the record.

This album reveals McCann’s most refined work to date, indicating the beginning of his transformation into a modern composer.

Mastered by Helmut Erler at Dubplates & Mastering
Pressed at RTI in an edition of 500 copies, with full color insert

Deluxe edition of 195 on marbled-green wax, with bonus compact disk of unreleased material – SOLD OUT
Black wax edition available Here


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A Closer Listen

Volcanic Tongue - ”New album from Sean McCann on his own Recital imprint: here McCann brings together a bunch of aspects that have orbited his back catalogue but that have never been fully articulated. The first piece is especially ambitious, using strings and keyboards to birth a form of devotional modern classical music that tips the hat to the early viol music of William Lawes as much as the continental-scale compositions of a John Adams or Aaron Copland while still coming out of a modern avant/drone aesthetic. There’s a similar sense of scale and of American invention as in Tony Conrad’s Four Violins but with less dissonance and more focus on orchestration and timbre. On the flip the feel is a little more hallucinatory, with an almost Basil Kirchin/Nurse With Wound-esque use of slowed down tapes over Partch/Moondog-style orchestrals before the whole thing blooms into fractured swells of sweeping strings and a final track that features the heavenly vocals of Kayla Cohen aka Itasca. A major statement from McCann.”

Scott Foust / Swill Radio - ”I have been a big fan of Sean’s music for some time now, but I was in no way prepared for this blast. The three part opener, Introduction, sets the tone with its highly organized, and yet sparse, string and orchestral parts. The piece has a weird ebb and flow that I am not sure I ever heard before. The other remarkable thing about this piece is that it really sounds like a chamber group playing together. Sean played all of the instruments himself, apart from a few samples, but Introduction has the feel of a group in a room. The other piece on the first side is sort of Gamelan-based and acts as a minty chaser before side 2. Said side 2 opens with City With All The Angles (For Dick Higgins), which starts out with slowed down growling and ominous plunks, and progresses through a series of events: a woozy, yet beautiful string section, a lost lounge band, bells… Sounds come and go like a dream. The finisher is the gorgeous Conclusion, also a three part piece like Introduction. There is some bumping and tape business in the first part before the piece condenses into what sounds like organ swells and the beautiful voice of Kayla Cohen. The arrangements throughout this record are meticulously detailed and very ornate, yet the music seems somewhat sparse. This is quite a feat indeed! Maybe I don’t get out enough, but I haven’t heard anything remotely like this for years. Top marks to an ever-more-fascinating potent new force.”