Steve Reich

COMPOSERS: Steve Reich
LABELS: Nonesuch ; Nonesuch
ALBUM TITLE: Phases: A Nonesuch Retrospective, Reich: Remixed 2006
WORKS: Various (Phases)
PERFORMER: Steve Reich, Michael Tilson Thomas etc (Phases)Steve Reich (Remixed)
CATALOGUE NO: 7559 799 622 (Reissue: 1985-2005) ; NS 006 T (Remix)
These – a retrospective box set

Advertisement

and a new ‘single’ – are released to

mark Steve Reich’s 70th birthday

on 3 October. To tidy things up for

collectors, despite a high content

overlap the Phases retrospective is not

exactly a rehash of the 1997 Works

boxed set, which was twice the size

of this rather more apprehensible

selection, and Reich: Remixed 2006

is an entirely different recording

from the original Reich: Remixed of

1999. Two out of the three pieces on

2006 were also remixed on the 1999

disc, but of course different mixes/

remixers produce different works,

so there’s no duplication. The 1999

remix disc still seems to be widely

findable, Works much less so.

All in all, then, Phases is now the

best option for anyone looking to

acquire an instant Steve Reich back

catalogue collection. In addition to

its availability and manageable size, it

happens to be a very well-conceived

package indeed, succeeding in

covering all the significant areas of

Reich’s career in a well-proportioned,

musically intelligent way. This has

been acheived partly by omitting a

few longer pieces such as The Four

Sections (not one of Reich’s best

works anyway, in my opinion), partly

by avoiding the inelegant excerpting

of large-scale compositions such as

The Cave by sensibly omitting them

altogether and partly by simply

stuffing a generous dollop of music

onto each of the five CDs. Given that

Reich’s music has become ever more

accessible over the years – the jazzy

melodies and key changes in You Are

(Variations) sound disconcertingly

normal to a diehard systems fan

– it might have been tempting to

quietly pass over the earlier, more

experimental period of Reich’s

career for a release of this nature.

Not a bit of it, though; we still get

the enigmatic phasing experiments

of Come Out and the original

Drumming as well as the big, popular

stuff such as Different Trains. Taken

overall, then, this is a well-assembled

set and a very attractive proposition

if you’re in the market for a sonically-impeccable

chunk of classic Reich,

or perhaps felt that Works was rather

more of him than you needed.

I’m less taken with the new

remixes disc, much as I liked the first.

Short, sparse and artlessly glitchy

in parts, it seems oddly inexpert in

comparison with the contributions

of (notably) DJ Spooky and Ken

Ishii to the first volume. The remix

of Drumming probably works best,

but I’d still rather listen to Four Tet’s

Advertisement

own Rounds CD. Roger Thomas