Steve Reich has made a bonafide mark in music history. He’s often mentioned in the same breath with the likes of Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, Harold Budd and John Cage – all pioneers of minimalist composition. Avant-garde music, much like great art, always seems to weather the times well, as what you hear on this could have very well come out today and it’ll remind you of other modern ambient/drone/neo-classical artists you listen to. It starts off with “Four Organs,” which is a bit jarring at first but as the timer continues to go on, you get more and more comfortable with the track. There’s only maracas, aside from the droning organs. “Pendulum Music I” and “Pendulum Music II” feature sputtering synthesizers, which sound like bassoons. Again, this can be a bit jarring at first but it becomes oddly entrancing as they continue to blast in to the air. “Phase Patterns” is the only track on here that you could say sounds of its time, but I’d argue that while it might be that… it sounds like it was a decade ahead; like something you might have heard in an 80s horror or sci-fi flick. Listen to the Bandcamp stream below and see what you think of it. Cheers!

The Details

Three early compositions (1968-1970) by Steve Reich, one of the most prolific exponents of minimal music, in stunning interpretations by the critically acclaimed Ensemble Avantgarde. Available on vinyl (180gr, gatefold sleeve incl. download code) for the first time ever!

Steve Reich (born 1936) is undoubtedly one of the key figures in 20th century contemporary music and along with Terry Riley or Philip Glass one of the founding fathers of so-called minimal music. With classics like “Music For 18 Musicians”, “Drumming” or “Different Trains” the American composer proved himself one of "a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history" (The Guardian). The four pieces on this collection date back to the time before his famous master pieces (1967-1970): “Four Organs” and “Phase Patterns” build on short, repeated patterns that gradually go in and out of phase with each other, creating “a shimmering matrix of sound that is both hypnotic and fascinating in detail” ( and anticipate Reich’s later trademark sound. “Pendulum Music” is a process piece where only a few starting parameters are given: four microphones are suspended within an array of amplifiers and speakers, then set in motion - the shifts in feedback as they move in space create the music, the results differ with each new performance (as can be experienced listening to the 2 versions here). Reich’s early works are presented on this LP in stunning interpretations by Leipzig based Ensemble Avantgarde whose dedicated, inspired renditions of essential masterpieces of modernism (documented on CDs on reputated labels such as Wergo or Hat Hut Records) won them the Ernst von Siemens Foundation Prize and the Schneider-Schott Prize of Mainz.

... this is a vital document of his earlier work and should be heard by any fan of Reich or minimalism in general. Highly recommended.

Ensemble Avantgarde:
Steffen Schleiermacher: organ, piano, electronics
Josef Christof: organ, piano
Michael Obst: organ
Klaus Steffes-Holländer: organ
Stefan Stopora: maracas
Martin Demmler: electronics
released 05 December 2014

Price $21.29

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