William Mutschler, Soundtracks | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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William Mutschler, Soundtracks


William Mutschler, Soundtracks - COURTESY
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  • William Mutschler, Soundtracks

(Self-released, digital)

In 1995, Patrick Moraz, the Swiss keyboardist for the bands Yes and the Moody Blues, played a series of private piano concerts known as the Coming Home America Tour. Fans could buy tickets, exclusively on the internet, for a fixed price of $800. (Moraz performed one show for a couple in their home.) Near the end of this tour, Moraz played a show at Princeton University that was recorded and later sold as Patrick Moraz: Live in Princeton. In its liner notes there's a special thanks to Bill Mutschler, who now goes by William Mutschler, an East Burke woodworker and composer. In the liner notes for his own new EP, Soundtracks, Mutschler credits himself with "producing [Moraz's] PM in Princeton CD-DVD."

But anybody seeking a local analogy to Moraz's adrenaline-paced, modern classical piano will find nary a resemblance on Soundtracks, an affecting work consisting of seven patient, ruminative arrangements.

Usually, music that evolves this slowly is dense and requires a lot of time to unfold, but there's no sonic or temporal overkill here. Borne along by subtle builds and slow decays across simple melodic drones, Mutschler's internal world creeps to the surface, neither bloated nor hasty.

Opener "Gratitude" is an airy soundscape with smoothly contoured lines of connected, sustained tones. Its edgeless composition provokes a lazy, expansive feeling, as sounds of natural flute lead the listener toward the Erik Satie-inspired piano on the second track, "Kohlndensed" — a title perhaps inspired by Keith Jarrett's 1975 album The Köln Concert. The use of silence, or space, as an instrument on these two tracks suggests a touch of impressionism.

"Homeward," however, is a sudden departure, a polyphonic spree of synth tones bouncing across an electric space shaped by oscillators and filters.

The proggy ambience thickens on "Gettysburg" — a piece of "social commentary," according to the artist's press release, that owes its first few moments to Tangerine Dream, specifically their score for the 1977 film Sorcerer. But ultimately, the mishmash of nonmusic sounds on this track, from helicopters to explosions to marching drums and bells, is overused and lends more confusion than clarity.

The highlight of the album is "Silents." Clocking in at 8:28, it's a wistful and anxious sequence of ambient noises, sweeping violin and cello sounds, and a Vangelis-inspired adrenaline rush of electrifying, pulsating key tones — unnecessarily sprinkled with snippets of recorded whispered conversations. Listeners will hear echoes of Stars of the Lid, La Monte Young, Labradford and Klaus Schulze.

It's possible fans will find Mutschler's new EP a mere afterthought to his atmospherically sprawling 2019 LP, Fields. Nevertheless, the evocative composer seems to be drawing from the same rich palette. If you're a fan of public radio's "Hearts of Space," you might enjoy sampling Mutschler's music.

Soundtracks is available to stream on all major platforms.