Beyond Astronomy’s Reach by Emmett Elvin #Iamanerdymuso

How best to conceive of the structure of a piece with no verse or chorus? It depends on the piece but in the case of Beyond Astronomy’s Reach by Emmett Elvin, I would suggest you imagine this:

There are two ostinatos. One is in 7/4 and centred around a descending F minor patern, the other is in D and in 6/4. The first is an anticipatory shade of light blue, the uneven rhythm making us feel unsettled. The second is a menacing angry red storm of building tension.

Two colours: 7/4 blue and 6/4 red. This piece moves between those two colours, using deft and insightful instrumental choices to pick out the textures and gestures within the broader swathes of colour.

We start with a drum beat in seven, with the rhythmic drive coming more from the cymbals, jazz fashion, than it does from kick and snare.

A loop of piano and wind gives us that descending F minor pattern,  building up over a F note drone the crescendos deliciously into the first rendition of our 6/4 ostinato. And it it is a thing of beauty. Honking brass and wind stab out the bass line while everything else builds up a layer of chords that reach a massive crescendo before giving way again to light blue 7/4 again.

Here the ostinato is joined by some lovely melodic F minor stuff before we get a second verse of the 6/4 ostinato. This time the main rhythmic material is provided by the acoustic guitar with the same chords building up around it. The drums take a short break, as do the stabbing bass instruments from the last time we heard this melody. The drumming here is ace.

Bass comes back in and we get a lovely electric guitar solo over the same backing. The guitar solo gives way to an equally good piano melody as the backing loops again towards the final tight, stabbed ending.

There are lots of pieces based around ostinatos. Beyond Astronomy’s Reach felt ever so slightly reminiscent of Mars of Holst’s The Planets, not because they share any material but because they both contain a rhythmic ostinato around which massive, menacing chords are built.

Bloody Marvels is a bloody marvellous album and this piece is ace.