Jay Cloidt concocts his slyly humorous pieces with what Carl Stone calls “skill, wit, perversity, and adroitness.” The composer’s spliced-together deconstructions of both classical and pop references, combined with his masterful sampling of everyday sounds, are, as Stone notes, “fabulous and fun to behold.”
Cloidt’s astutely entertaining music has delighted audiences throughout the US and overseas. London’s Musical Times writes that Exploded View is “the stuff of surrealist fantasy: a string quartet playing with the straight-backed elegance of the Viennese tradition but producing the voices of industrial machinery, kitchen appliances, roaring animals and whining babies.” And the Los Angeles Times comments that Karoshi is “a hoot… The piece, made of sampled crashes and kabooms and cartoony melodies, knows exactly how to fill five minutes.”
The Kronos Quartet begins the CD with the effervescent Kole Kat Krush. The Kronos commissioned this piece from Cloidt, and they also premiered it. This frequently programmed piece careens between Stravinsky, Beethoven, Eric Clapton, and Sly Stone, among others. The Kronos recorded this Starkland version at George Lucas’s technically sophisticated Skywalker Ranch.
Cloidt offers these comments about the CD’s next piece:
“ ‘Karoshi’ is a medical syndrome that occurs in Japanese businessmen: after many years of over-work, a ‘salaryman’ will sometimes drop dead on the sidewalk, literally ‘stressed to death.’ This composition, for bass instrument and sampled percussion, was commissioned by Basso Bongo; other versions have been performed by the Paul Dresher Ensemble, the New York duo twisted tutu, and the California EAR Unit.”
Jimi’s Fridge was composed for Brenda Way’s ODC-San Francisco’s dance work “The Secret House,” with text by Rinde Eckert and music co-composed by Jay Cloidt and Paul Dresher. The sound source was a sample of the motor from Cloidt’s home refrigerator (processed by a cheap analog delay line), and the electronic percussion is by Gene Reffkin.
Commissioned by the Paul Dresher Ensemble, “Life Is Good . . . And People Are Basically Decent” is a suite of loosely related pieces based on a diverse collection of sound materials and musical inspirations. We hear permutations on a familiar piano motif, a sampled motorcycle, some Native American “wolf scares” bullroarers, the complex whining drone of stair-climb exercise machines, and music Cloidt calls an homage to two of his musical heroes, Thelonious Monk and Frank Zappa.
Carl Stone offers these comments about the three sections from Cloidt’s Exploded View (commissioned by the Kronos Quartet) heard on the CD:
“But when Cloidt’s music strays from the world of ironic quotation to other realms, the fascination does not cease. Without knowing the title ‘Cats,’ I assumed I was listening to a virtuoso manipulation of the sound of an old joke ‘cow-in-a-can.’ Not only has the composer achieved a kind of inter-species morphism where felinity becomes bovinity becomes divinity, but amazingly ‘Cats,’ and its companions ‘Baby Talk’ and ‘Auto/Motive,’ each using their own distinctive class of ‘non-musical’ samples, are actually written for and performed by a string quartet.”
Cloidt aims “to create a work that is straightforwardly beautiful” in the soothing, hypnotic Light Fall, commissioned by the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. Stone finds that “Cloidt’s always present love of sound as sound is set in bold relief. It is here where we hear Cloidt the sonologist, and, some of us may say, where the best music of all lies.”
The CD concludes with a second version of Kole Kat Krush, performed by the Paul Dresher Electro-Acoustic Band (with Cloidt on keyboard) and recorded live on tour in Japan.
Summing up, Stone concludes that Cloidt’s talents “give him the ability to negotiate sharp musical curves without careening into a ditch. Like most if not all good music, repeated listening never fails to reveal. And thus Cloidt’s music never fails to succor even the most jaded listener.”