Steve Moshier: Limestone Gates

Steve Moshier is a prolific post-minimalist composer who has been creating sonic backdrops for theater and dance performances for more than 30 years.  Limestone Gates pulls together pieces from his compositions Boys Life (1983), Deliquium in C (1989) and Sudan (1992). Despite their age, Moshier’s constructs don’t feel dated. This is textbook minimalism, hitting brief phrases in repetition to create rhythmic drones or stretching those phrases through time. It’s interesting to note how tone can affect the experience of Moshier’s work. Listening to “Boys Life—Desert Sci-Fi,” the throaty, almost cello-like sound that quavers its way through its simple statement is very lulling. The waveform feels warm. By contrast, the next track, “Boys Life—Highway” is like being trapped in the same room as a slightly malfunctioning ice cream truck for seven minutes. The jangly, saccharine notes grate on the nerves in very short order. But then you’re back into the quieter side with “Boys Life—In the Lab” as Moshier churns out gurgling, bubbling sounds over a gently oscillating drone.  Most of the “Boys Life” tracks are quiet and calming, with that one exception. This makes the contrast between Boys Life and Deliquium that much more pronounced when it hits. Deliquium is carried by severe, near-atonal rasps across strings, a scraping and grating that fights against a slowly metered, smoother chord progression beneath it. There’s a frantic energy to this string assault that borders on a desperation to be understood. It’s five minutes of concentrated intensity. This is followed by Sudan, more of an ambient piece nearly a half-hour in length. This slow-moving, graceful flow is supported by a low-key bass throb running behind it. The movement is quite calm and yet very expressive, shifting subtly across time without taking the listener out of the simplicity. For me, this is the highlight of the disc. All in all, Limestone Gates is an excellent introduction to Moshier’s work, albeit work that’s nearly 30 years old. The composer is still creating, mostly with his Liquid Skin Ensemble; having made this introduction to his older work, I would love to hear what he is up to now.

Available from Spectropol.

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