By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Known as one of the pioneers of minimalism, Steve Reich has been a major influence on neo-classical, jazz, avant-garde, rock and electronic artists for nearly half a century. Much of his seminal work from the '60s and '70s had remained woefully out of print until the release of this five-disc retrospective. Stunningly original and subversively subtle, the compositions contained here proved to be virtual roadmaps for artists such as Brian Eno and Robert Fripp and continue serving as paths still traversed by more modern purveyors of repetition such as Aphex Twin, Moby and even Sufjan Stevens.
Reich's music explores rhythmic change applied at almost unperceivable moments, levels of sonic complexity housed in the simplest of structures and performed with the most basic instrumentation. Drumming, Reich's landmark piece from 1971, is as much a study of impressive African percussion techniques as it is a mesmerizing, neoclassicist composition. With Music for 18 Musicians, Reich's music was celebrated and widely imitated. Krautrock pioneers Kraftwerk and Can took cues from Reich and, for better of worse, the seemingly endless array of trance and trip-hop artists owe much to Reich's pioneering monotony.
Phases contains early compositions such as "Come Out" along with later, more emotionally intense historical and religious works such as "Different Trains" and "Tehillim." In each case, the cyclical nature of life is embraced and released in waves of astonishing repetitiveness. Although over-intellectualized, Reich's music functions as a celebration of reappearing patterns, ensconced in everything from Chuck Berry to the Sex Pistols.
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