Composer Michael Price may have attracted attention recently for being responsible alongside David Arnold for the soundtrack to the popular BBC series Sherlock, winning an Emmy in the process, but this was only the latest (if the most successful) of several high profile film/television scores he’s been involved in over the last decade. It’s this depth of experience and musical skillset that he puts to striking effect on his Erased Tapes released debut album Entanglement.
Entanglement took over two years to make and it clearly shows – there’s a level of care and attention to detail evident, with each track seeming to serve its own particular purpose as well as contributing to a greater whole. Musically there’s a breadth and variety on display, with Price contributing piano to go alongside the string orchestra, cello, soprano voice and various subtle electronics and synths that also appear over the course of the 39 minutes. As with some of the best modern classical albums, an unknown storyline seems to subconsciously filter through the nine tracks. Price has explained that one of the key inspirations for the album is how science can shine metaphorical light on human relationships, but it’s also possible to make personal readings and interpretations into the music.
The miniature mood-setter of Tape Overture gives way to Easter, the first of several tracks of individual interest. Sounding like the slow motion unfolding of a crisp spring morning, it was inspired by the bells of the Santa Maria della Salute church that Price heard whilst in Venice. He made recordings on his phone and when back in the studio improvised on piano using delays and echoes to beautiful effect. He employed a similar approach on Budapest, again using recordings of street activity made on his phone and growing them into something bigger. As a track it’s the epitome of understatement, all snowy purity and piecemeal gradations.
The Attachment is the moment the album truly leaps off the page, however. There’s hints of Gavin Bryars in the small scale deteriorations that open the piece (no doubt due to it being partly recorded on a 1940s magnetic disc recorder). A theme is then located and amplified via the lushness and thickness of the strings and the directional guidance of the piano. It’s these two tracks, side by side, that shows Price’s adept management of balance and contrast.
Maitri signals the next upwards shift, featuring the vocals of soprano Ashley Knight. There’s undoubtedly something Henryk Górecki-like about the tangible sadness, the feeling of missed opportunities and the sense of irretrievable situations that engulf the track. Later, The Uncertainty Principle strikes a similarly affecting note (both songs feature lines of Japanese poetry translated into English, as if the scale of the album wasn’t already sufficiently ambitious). In between, Digital Birds offers an abstract pause for breath and later, the title track brings things back full circle, allowing rays of warmth in to eventually help achieve a thawing effect.
Entanglement is an album that needs to be considered alongside genre heavyweights like The Blue Notebooks by Max Richter or Englabörn by Jóhann Jóhannsson. It’s a timely reminder of how high modern classical music can reach.