Monday, December 2, 2019

Lou Rogai - Cathedral (2019)

Last year, Lou Rogai of Lewis & Clarke unveiled Implications in D major, Adagio for Chamber Strings, the first of a series of chamber music compositions Rogai wrote while also crafting a follow up to his last Lewis & Clarke album Triumvirate.

While Lewis & Clarke has often invoked the intimacy of chamber music both in its recorded output and its live shows, with Implications and now Cathedral, Rogai filters his slow building chamber folk into a classical idiom. 

A composition in three movements, Cathedral isn't your standard classical composition - from its use of field recordings, guitar, and synth, Rogai provides an interesting stamp on chamber music in a way wholly unlike his straight forward, elegaic Implications. Beginning with church , "Arrival", the first movement of Cathedral is an ambient wave slowly manuvering away from the shore - it's not until 2 and a half minutes with the entrance of the guitar that Rogai embarks on a direct presentation of a melody. Where each member of Rogai's ensemble flittered by in rapid blur or peeked from a haze before, they're all accounted for at this point, flute, double bass, clarinet, classical guitar, and strings weaving together in Rogai's characteristic slow build. 

"Acceptance", the piece's second movement is essential a marriage of Rogai as a composer and a songwriter (much like Lewis & Clarke), Rogai lends his vocals to the piece, at first vocalizing in response to the string and brass before he begins singing actual words. Much like "Arrival", "Acceptance" engages in about two minutes of musical world building - creating a hazy ambience meant to disorient and which makes the sudden clarity of Rogai's vocals all the more potent. 

"Ascent", the final movement of Cathedral, finds Rogai playing off of his field recordings of chimes as he creates a theme that seeks to replicate them. It's slow at first, gradually building and almost improvisatory as Rogai recalls the casual brush of the chimes and eventually eeks out a beautiful, furtive melody elevated to masterful grandeur by a lush string accompaniment. 

Cathedral isn't your standard classical composition. It isn't even your standard experimental classical composition. It exists as a mix of experimental composition and songcraft - similar but not entirely reminiscent of his work as Lewis & Clarke. Rogai has always crafted music that rewards the patient listener and Cathedral is no different - an exploration of theme and place where the place in question might not actually exist.

Cathedral is meant to resonate deep inside the listener like the church bells Rogai uses to signal the start of the piece and the shift between its movements. It's a beautiful and meditative piece of art that surprises and delights by virtue of its embrace and suspension of traditional form and its avant garde approach toward both the classical and singer/songwriter realms. 

Lou Rogai's Cathedral is out now on Veritidas Recordings. Both LP and CD orders come with bonus tracks of Rogai's Essere Amato film score. You can order it now.