Myles Astor, New York, writing for PFO, December 11th, 2013
Reel-to-reel Recording of the Year: Smoke & Mirrors Percussion Ensemble, Yarlung Records. Steve Reich: Nagoya Marimbas; Lou Harrison: Canticle No.3; Maurice Ravel: Sonatine. Producer and engineer: Bob Attiyeh. 15-ips/2-track, CCIR, Yarlung Records.
In contrast to past years, there was absolutely no shortage of candidates in this category including The Tape Project’s Lee Morgan Sidewinder, International Phonograph’s Ravi Shankar in Luxembourg, 1980 and Opus 3’s One, Vol. 2 Sampler tape. When push came to shove, however, Yarlung Records newly recorded and released Smoke & Mirrors walked away with this year’s top prize! This single, roughly 31 minute reel, features a potpourri of percussion music from a trio of 20th century composers ranging from the likes of Steve Reich to Lou Harrison to Maurice Ravel. Each track is a musical and sonic spectacular with perhaps Lou Harrison’s Cantitcle No. 3 with its hauntingly, primitive feel punctuated by the ocarina (a Mexican terra cotta flute that as described in the notes looks like, “sweet potato”) interspersed with John Cage-ish percussion segments being my favorite. This recording’s huge dynamic range (this is not a piece for the weak willed amplifier), instrumental colors and especially cornucopia of percussion instruments including bass drum and tam-tam will give even a thoroughbred audio system everything it can handle and even a bit more.
A big tip of the hat also to Arian Jansen of SonoruS for again stepping up to the plate and sponsoring Yarlung Records second quartet of tape releases.