While New York City based chamber group yMusic certainly earned their stripes with the release of their debut album Beautiful Mechanical back in 2011, the excitement I felt upon the announcement of their follow up Balance Problems was undoubtably leveled up when it was revealed that had Son Lux signed on to produce it. While yMusic certainly toed the line of indie classical and something wholly other on their debut, Ryan Lott's involvement behind the scenes seemed to portend an additional desire for the sextet to continue to sidestep genre labels.
While on Beautiful Mechanical, yMusic teamed up with several notable indie artists/composers, Balance Problems goes a more traditional route of having yMusic align less with band fronters/artists that happen to be competent composers and more with those notable for doing just that. That's not to say a couple crossovers aren't present a la Sufjan Stevens. Through taking to commonplace definition, yMusic's core concept is illuminated further - by tackling the pre-established norms in classical music, yMusic set out to ultimately transcend them.
The first single from the new record, "Music in Circles" is an excerpt from a two part piece written by Andrew Norman. The most notable part of Music in Circles" or rather, the excerpt yMusic offer as a taster - is just how long it takes for clear melody to formulate. Beginning with far more percussive leaning strings paired fragmented glancing blows in the winds, Norman offers up merely hints at melody that builds - the spiccato strokes and ricochet go from merely functioning as a percussive effect to forming a part of harmonic vertebra. "Music in Circles" is built from the ground up not from the layering of melody and harmony but from the incorporation of each instruments' own advanced techniques. The most pleasant surprise is how easily everything coagulates into beautiful harmonic moments. "Music in Circles" resembles at its most simple a modal work where each instruments' part ingeniously syncs up. However Norman and yMusic by extension make you work for those moments - much of the piece spends its time gently layering towards the sync only to either snatch it away at moment you expect everything to coalesce or to deconstruct it immediately when melodic fluidity becomes the norm.
"Music in Circles" is a challenging, subversive piece that breaks down the very notion of expectations while offering wonderful moments of beautiful, almost happenstance like harmony that gives yMusic ability to really flex their technical chops. Norman draws attention to the nature of melody, which through his suspension of it, makes the moments when it appears all that more arresting, and the momentous climbs toward its establishment perhaps more intriguing and important.
yMusic's second full length Balance Problems is out September 30th on New Amsterdam Records.