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The Threefifty Duo

Circles

Circles CD coverWhen we were approached by Geremy Schulick, one half of the Threefifty Duo, to see if we'd be interested in reviewing their latest release "Circles", our response was a resounding "Yes!". The answer to why lies in the uniqueness of the duo's musical approach and repertoire combined with the fact that as this would be the first review undertaken of a guitar duo.

The Threefifty Duo, aka Geremy Schulick and Brett Parnell, were formed during musical studies at Yale, under the tutelage of Ben Verdery.

Drawing on rich diversity and influences from their hometown, New York City, the duo are renowned for their programme scheduling, mixing JS Bach, Brahms and Handel alongside contemporary musiscal styles, including the likes of Coldplay (see the second Youtube clip to the right here).

The duo has performed at a range of many respected venues and festivals within the United States. These include the 92nd Street Y, Southpaw, Pianos, The New York Guitar Festival, The Monkey and Bennington College in addition to playing at various Guitar Societies across the country.

The duo's latest album "Circles" is characterised by an incredible sense of harmonic and melodic richness throughout, with both guitar parts interweaving and separating seamlessly throughout. It's this amazing convergence and divergence of the two guitar registers which makes for an extremely powerful and striking sound "experience". We found ourselves constantly reaching for metaphors and analogies to best describe the effects conjured up by the works which comprise this incredible release.

The opening track of this release "Mina at the Monkey", takes its name, in part, from the famous New York City music venue "The Monkey", where the duo launched their latest release in late October 2008 . Free running arpeggios overlaying of the guitar parts creates a highly effective and catchy rhythmic pulse, further augmented by drum accompaniment provided on the bongos courtesy of percussionist, Ayano Kataoka.

The follow-on piece, "Victory Drill" evokes a strong country and folky rhythm. The soaring high registers almost give it the feeling of a Bolivian or Peruvian folk song in parts. Meanwhile, the fantastic use of dynamics give the piece a real sensation of effervescence and sparkle to it. It's like the reflections of sunlight dancing off the surface of a still pond or lake.

In sharp contrast, "Touch the Ground" has a really baroque quality about to it, with a catchy upper register melody sitting above a pulsing ground bass. "Zane Dancing" comes next, a lively and rhythmic piece, which reminded us very much of the Andrew York compositional style (Guitar composer and member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, LAGQ) about it. When you'll hear it you'll know what we mean! Great piece!

Next up is "Circles", from which the release takes its name. This particularly powerful piece opens in the lower bass creating a real dark opening to the piece before a really incredibly conceived melodic line fades in and out almost continuously. The best way to describe the effect would be to imagine the sun's rays breaking and disappearing through the heavy cloud, before prevailing as the clouds finally clear.

"Outward, Endlessly, In Every Direction", uses an impressive range of guitar effects from artificial and natural harmonics, strummings, trills and staccato. It opens with what can be described as a calming, stepped baseline before build up to a more "torrential" pace midway through the piece. A brief return to the opening then brings this great piece to its conclusion. The musical effect evokes the feeling of being caught in a rain storm. The melodic effect evoking the sounds of raindrops beating down on different surfaces, with their contrasting sonorities all around you.

In "Eager to Be" the duo overlay their respective guitar parts to form an incredible melodic beat, augmented by the inclusion of a great drum accompaniment. The high registers and melodic repetition creates an incredible feeling of yearning and drive to achieve, truly fitting to the name of the piece.

"Iris", meanwhile, begins with a tranquil and contemplative opening, before broadening out into a catchy and highly percussive piece, carrying a real undercurrent of what could be described as brooding edginess beneath it.

"A Run Through the Forest", has a really light and playful melody to it, conjuring a picture a game of tag being played amongst the trees. Capture and a brief respite then ensue, before the pace is picked up again, continuing through to the finish.

"Eleven Eleven" is a particularly emotive and almost spiritual piece, almost etherial in its effect, in what must be a music reference to the so-called "11:11 phenomenon". This is a reference to the the impact the numbers have exerted on the timing of key world world events and future outcomes which are mysteriously aligned to this powerful numeric reference point. For example, The Signing of the Armistice World War One to the to the timing of a number of events due to take place in 2012.

Contrastingly, in "Moanna", you're transported into a strongly celtic folk inspired work, whose infectious rhythmic beat is retained throughout the piece and fittingly brings this amazing release to a close.

We defy anyone to not be drawn into the rhythm, energy and fervour of these works. This really is a must have from a highly accomplished and extremely talented performing and composing duo whose music demands to be heard on a wider scale.

Where do you want to go to next?

Read our interview with Brett & Geremy, the Threefifty Duo right here
Visit the Threefifty Duo's own website and purchase their recordings
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