Conceived in the late 19th century, the orchestrion was a large contraption allowing various instruments to be played by one musician simultaneously through an ingenious series of mechanical relays.
With the help of boffins, Pat Metheny has revived the notion for the 21st century, adapting pianos, marimbas, drums and guitars to be remotely controlled by pneumatics, and creating the basic tracks behind his lead guitar lines on these five pieces: a variant of music programming involving individual acoustic sounds rather than identical sound-files. The results range from the minimalist gamelan underpinning his guitar on "Spirit Of The Air" to the busier flurries of pianola and marimba on the lengthy title-track, whose dizzying unison passages and tricky counterpoints recall player-piano genius Conlon Nancarrow, along with elements of John Adams and Frank Zappa in his synclavier period. "Entry Point" has a calmer, samba-jazz feel, while "Expansion" has the quiet industry of 1970's chamber-jazz fusion, with Metheny's silverfish guitar lines darting over subtle cymbals and scudding snare. It's surprisingly smoothly effected, with only a slightly mechanistic duel between percussion and keyboard in "Expansion" spoiling the calm fluidity.
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