yMusic battles vertigo on Balance Problems



For most, chamber music is not thought of to be approachable. Often times, it excludes listeners by asserting itself as too academic for the common listener. yMusic has set out to change that, and for the most part, they are doing a decent job. The sextet, composed of violinist Rob Moose, trumpeter CJ Camerieri, cellist Clarice Jensen, flutist Alex Sopp, violist Nadia Sirota and Hideaki Aomori on clarinet, treat the challenges of pop and classical music equally. 

yMusic's sophomore release, Balance Problems, which is available today on New Amsterdam Records, is not just an experiment in blurring boundaries between genres, but also pushes the concept of performance to be able to accommodate the innovative sound. The album's opener of the same name buzzes right away, taking the listener by the hand to embark on the journey. It's a warm welcome and a cheerful introduction to the musicians and their instruments.

"Bladed Stance," composed by Marcos Balter, is a delicate transition into the meaty center of the album. The flute, trumpet and clarinet echo and flutter while the strings create vacuous surroundings. The suite, "Music in Circles," in two parts, clearly imparts the vision of yMusic. Andrew Norman's compositions allow the sextet to explore the outer limits of the classical genre without sacrificing style and form. 

"The Bear and the Squirrel" warms the listener with deep, lush strings that gradually rise to meet the clarinet with brighter tones. The episodic composition by Mark Dancigers, "Everness," displays how integral performance is to Balance Problems. Closing the album is a piece composed by Michigan native Sufjan Stevens. "The Human Plague" acts as a trippy reflection of the album's ambitious vision.

A large part of what makes this album stand out is the production by Son Lux, who is known for his own experimental music that ranges from post rock to alternative hip hop. What would seem tricky for a project like yMusic is to create a setting and a mood that is not only endearing to the listener but also keeps them engaged throughout the album. However, the compositions and the production work together to accomplish that. 

Sure, yMusic have not entirely converted the masses to classical music fanaticism, but they've made a fine effort at it. 


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