Andrew Bernstein -  Cult Appeal

Andrew Bernstein - Cult Appeal

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Label: Hausu Mountain

Andrew Bernstein continues to redefine the capacity of the modern interdisciplinary musician, exploring the intersections of ecstatic live ritual and academic electronic music. Cult Appeal, his first Hausu Mountain release, showcases a wide range of extended technique workouts and generative synthesizer processes that highlight his honed instincts for structured electro-acoustic improvisation. As a member of rock polymaths Horse Lords, Bernstein guides the band’s intricate arrangements through African-inspired percussion patterns, and intensifies their busy harmonic frameworks with torrents of cyclical saxophone melody. His solo music contextualizes these impulses into discrete pieces informed by the contemporary classical, minimalist, and avant-garde traditions. Bernstein sets his systems into motion and steers his fields of sound through a combination of intuitive improvised tactics and rule-based conditions. His sessions unfold over extended durations into dynamic structures dotted with climaxes and sudden shifts in timbre, texture, and rhythm. As he pursues one ideal of mathematic precision, his predilection for the forces of controlled randomness and spontaneous composition spark his pieces into unpredictable new configurations with each subsequent performance.

The three-part “Thought Forms” suite begins Cult Appeal with some of Bernstein’s most rhapsodic saxophone performances captured on record. The mostly improvised pieces tumble through elliptical mantras and impossibly long melodic phrases as Bernstein generates swarms of brass tones that seem too dense and continuous to stem from one person performing live. The suite actively flits between moods, presenting upper-register volleys of atonality, long swathes of spectral sustain, and flights of blissed-out arpeggiation. Bernstein’s playing evokes the controlled chaos of Anthony Braxton‘s sax work and the hypnotic ritual of Henry Flynt‘s extended technique pieces. For the rest of its program, Cult Appeal shifts into the realm of procedural synthesizer performance. “Ek Stasis” twists through an upward linear trajectory of organic electronic tones and spasmodic glitch textures, illustrating Bernstein’s mastery of tonal spatialization and timbral juxtaposition. The piece presents a matrix of interlaced synth grids that recalls the algorithmic grandeur of Laurie Spiegel as augmented by the unpredictable influence of improvised performative decisions. For the abyss of glacial low end manipulation entitled “A Boundless Mass of Transparent Jelly,” Bernstein appropriates a series of pitches from John Cage‘s “In A Landscape,” retunes them to just intonation, and recontexualizes them into a program of randomized rhythms. The piece swells through a collection of time-dilating patches and abstracted synth clusters, channeling Cage’s notion of indeterminacy into a naturally evolving system that encompasses a seemingly infinite range of hi-fidelity synth strategies.