Pat Metheny's "The Orchestrion Project" Out Now; "Fresh, Elegant, Surprising" (Observer, Four Stars)
Pat Metheny—who won his 20th Grammy Award earlier this week for his 2012 album Unity Band—releases his latest album, The Orchestrion Project, on Nonesuch today. Recorded at a church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the albums showcases the full evolution of the Orchestrion as documented at the tail end of a sprawling 2010 world tour. The two-disc set features all five tunes from Metheny's Orchestrion—“a soaring five-movement suite featuring some of the most intricate music he's ever created" (Boston Globe)—plus eight additional Metheny compositions, which he plays on his phalanx of remarkable, custom-made instruments via solenoid switches and pneumatics.
In the UK, where the album was released yesterday, Q and Mojo have given the album four stars, as does the Observer. Dave Gelly, reviewing the album for the Observer, calls the music "strangely haunting—antique and jangly, yet at the same time fresh, elegant and surprising. I have never heard anything quite like it." Read the complete review at guardian.co.uk.
The Orchestrion itself is an assemblage of computer-operated acoustic instruments, all controlled by Metheny’s guitar. The full instrumental array includes several pianos, drum kits, marimbas, "guitar-bots," dozens of percussion instruments and even cabinets of carefully tuned bottles. Through Metheny’s guitar, the instruments are struck, plucked, and otherwise played via the technology of solenoid switches and pneumatics. Metheny worked for months with a brilliant team of scientists and engineers to develop and assemble the Orchestrion.
The Orchestrion album and tour received critical praise, with Jazz Times saying, "Mallets, bells, bottles, piano, cymbals and incidental percussion held forth in a spectacle of dissonance and extraordinary color, sounding like Metheny meets Boulez." And NPR Music said, "No matter who—or what—he has on stage with him, Pat Metheny plays music as if at the end of the show he would be prevented from doing so for the rest of his life. He makes every note matter, and infuses each with so much emotion that it’s very hard not to get swept up in the moment…he always looks like he’s having as much fun playing as we are listening. His tour with the Orchestrion will likely be talked about for quite a while."