Patrick Higgins – TOCSIN – featuring the Wet Ink Ensemble, Vicky Chow, and Mivos Quartet
A lavish double LP, an audiophile vinyl pressing with a remarkable art design, and digital
Patrick Higgins’ new album TOCSIN is full of thrilling opposites: A modern classical record with a punk/noise ethos, from a composer who has lived and breathed both identities. A masterclass of visceral genre-bending sounds, that are physical and delicate at the same time.
Let’s break it down. This is modern classical chamber music, and everything that comes with that: thorny, cerebral, technically difficult — infinitely analyzable, if you want to go there. But essential to Higgins’ purpose is to begin with the spirit of the hardcore punk and noise scenes, a kind of concert music from the underground. If your path to this music is through Higgins’ work in legendary avant-rockers Zs, you will feel this music, before you start making sense of it. Actually we hope you will feel it first, no matter who you are. The compositions explore cutting edge musical dimensions, like microtonality, harmony, and very specific theoretical experiments in timbre and innovative music notation.
BUT what Patrick Higgins cares about most of all is the possibility for music to radically rearrange the human environment it is heard in. As he puts it, “introducing new ritual into the presentation of concert music, socially as much as artistically.” While there are no coded messages, this is urgent music, social music: expressionistic and philosophical works of what the composer calls ‘crisis music’.
The compositions in TOCSIN are quote-unquote difficult music, but they make you feel deeply, being music as much of the heart as of the head. That is a rare accomplishment for sounds as experimental as these.
Over the course of three large compositions, the listener is brought on a journey of constant surprise: as when the sound of violins dissolves into a cloudburst of pure noise, more at home in an underground electronics show than anything that appears on a concert stage. And yet the music is written and performed with expertise, precision, and vibrancy. A new virtuosity inspired and created by the collaboration of these excellent musicians.
Patrick Higgins is known in a few different worlds: as guitarist for the post-everything band Zs,
as a solo performer of hypnotic/pyrotechnic electric guitar music, and also as record
producer at his Future-Past analog studio.
These chamber pieces are years in the making, masterful works of a high order.
The LP edition begins with a special Higgins arrangement of Bach, a nod to his previous solo guitar album for Telegraph Harp, Bachanalia.
These compositions exist in a deep working relationship with their performers: the Wet Ink Ensemble, hailed as the “Best Classical Ensemble of 2018” by the New York Times; acclaimed pianist Vicky Chow, “one of our era's most brilliant pianists” (Pitchfork), and the Mivos Quartet, “one of America's most daring and ferocious new-music ensembles” (The Chicago Reader).
This has become one of the most important albums of my life. It’s essence is indescribable. Every sound from the start of the record through the end is placed delicately and with care. The album cover is by Julie Mehretu. It’s absolutely an incredible release for which I shall be eternally grateful. Aniket
Drummer, band leader, sound collagist Makaya McCravens 2nd opus magnum. Material from 4 different purely improvised live sets in 4 cities, recomposed into new compositions/collages. To astonishing results, I have to add. Carsten Pieper