May 15th sees the release of Threads Of A Prayer Volume II. I am inadvertently going for the easy comparison with “Vol. I” by saying that the later edition is a far denser, shorter album – vol I stretched over two hours. Vol II seems like the destination intended after Vol. I’s search. Jeffrey Roden follows up the epic, 2-hour long first installment of the series – marking his debut as a composer after decades as a session musician, electro-jazz-experiments and solo bass music, that release presented an artist rooted in deeply felt spirituality and intimate sound worlds.
The monolithic dimensions of the album – with a piece like “twelve prayers” clocking in at just under three quarters of an hour – combined with the tender sound of a small cast of musicians, turned out to be challenging for some. For many, however, it proved to be a revelation. Volume 2 now takes the listener even deeper into Roden’s mind – towards a space he refers to as ‘the other place’.
Despite the addition of new instruments, including an electric organ performed by Solaire Records’s Tobias Fischer, the music sounds even more ‘as one’, the four compositions almost seamlessly flowing in and out of each other to create a sustained field. Taken from the same sessions as volume 1, the same mood of introspection, fragility and immediacy also prevails here. Although comparisons to Pärt and Feldman are still valid, a far more personal style is emerging underneath, shaped as much by Roden’s past as a bassist as well as the many ‘silent’ years during which he withdrew from recording to focus on re-thinking his approach and emerging as a classical composer. What appeared to be an issue at first – his lack of education in the eyes of academia – may now turn out to be a benefit, because it provided him with “an awareness of how little material could carry a moment and convey a range of expression.”
If this music is ever confrontational, it is so in the sense of confronting the listener with herself by manipulating our common sense of time. “Time is of monumental importance in my work and I spend quite a bit of energy and focus on the amount of time that elapses between sounds and in the decay of a chord or note”, Roden agrees, “Time is the thread which must be managed to carry the listener from beginning to concluding note. I am always conscious of how long a piece feels.” On threads of a prayer volume 2, the tracks remarkably feel both monumentally long and almost outside of time – clear signs that Roden is edging closer and closer towards attaining his goal.
Quite what this goal is is a mystery – Bliss? Solace? Kensho? But it leaves the listener (me) with the feeling I am on a pilgrimage. There is much spiritual solace in this album – and I feel humbled by listening to it. There is a timeless beauty to the structure of the composition that allows the notes to breathe, ebb and soar to new plateaus. This album is both pertinent and timely. Pertinent as we head racing to wipe ourselves off the face of the planet and timely due to the constant onslaught on modern days.
A brilliant work.
Bennewitz Quartet. Szymon Marciniak, bass. Wolfgang Fischer, timpani. Tobias Fischer, organ. Sandro Ivo Bartoli, piano.
Treads of a Prayer Vol. II will be released on Solaire Records on 15th May 2017