eMusic Review 0
Composer Paul Bailey winningly describes his ensemble as an “alt-classical garage band.” With 4 singers (two of whom also speak), strings, winds, piano, electric guitar, vibes, and electric bass, it's as good a description as any. Retrace Our Steps is his “secular oratorio in 4 acts,” and while the opening notes of Act I and of Act IV sound like they might have come from Arnold Schoenberg's Transfigured Night, the dominant musical references are to Philip Glass and Michael Nyman. Bailey's pulsing, tonal chamber music is married to texts by Gertrude Stein, Guy Debord and Jenny Bitner. All four acts are highly rhythmic affairs, but each has its own character: Act I insistent, Act IV a more reflective cousin (a neat trick since the rhythm seems to be the same); Act II with a stinging electric guitar part leading the way; Act III with an elegant combination of vibes and rocking strings and guitar.
Rather than providing a narrative in a traditional oratorio sense, Bailey gives us a series of aural snapshots dealing with isolation, alienation, and the irony of modern communication (that when it is so easy to communicate, it is still so hard to communicate effectively).… read more »