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World Music CD Reviews New Age & Avant Garde

Steve Reich

By Phil Freeman
Published April 24, 2007

Phases: A Nonesuch Retrospective

Composer Steve Reich turned 70 this year, and Nonesuch has honored him with a month-long festival of his music and this subtly packaged box (five CDs in digipaks and a small book, enclosed in a simple cardboard slipcase). The music included covers a broad range, from the deceptively simple tape piece “Come Out” to the sweeping, epic, breathtakingly beautiful Music For 18 Musicians. Reich’s influences are broad, from Middle Eastern music (Tehillim, The Desert Music) to the sound of the human voice (Different Trains, “Come Out”), and echoes of his sound can be heard all over—fans of early ’90s ambient dance group the Orb will recognize the melody of “Electric Counterpoint,” here played by guitarist Pat Metheny. While much of Reich's music is intensely repetitive, it's never mechanistic or irritating. The gradually shifting sounds bloom in the mind like morning sunlight wrapping around city buildings.