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CD Review: Numinous's "Changing Same"

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Numinous Changing Same

(2015, New Amsterdam Records)

Numinous is the handle of Hudson/Brooklyn composer Joseph C. Phillips, Jr. (not to be confused with the Cosby Show actor and conservative Christian commentator of almost the same name, if the Amiri Baraka quote on the back cover of this CD doesn't make that clear enough). Changing Same, the third and latest Numinous release, comes from Brooklyn and is unabashedly of it: serious, midsize-ensemble compositions precisely synced to that borough's conservatory-schooled, chamber-fusion moment. On "19," the first of Changing Same's six lengthy, hyperdetailed, and harmonically dense pieces, Phillips offers a cerebral abstraction of funk and uptown soul, an isolated, drumless and odd-meter groove crisscrossed by a darting, thoroughly modernist string, wind, vocal, and mallet percussion arrangement. It would be high/low fusion were there anything "low" about it.

But "19" is a bit of red herring, as the remainder of this compelling and conceptually thoughtful disc is given to cyclic, post-Minimalist mood pieces with a patterned, cinematic quality. Phillips's timbral pallet is wide but focused: electric piano and bass functioning as a rhythm section of sorts, Space Age bird choirs, and a fairly large chamber ensemble engaging in skewed and irresolute modernist canons and rounds, occasionally riven by madly distorted electric guitar lines that reference no particular school of rock at all. The rarefied gospel/jazz art song intro to "Miserere" offers one departure from that status quo, as does the Brazil-by-way-of-Kronos Quartet uplift of the album-closing "Unlimited." This is very fine stuff. Numinousmusic.com.

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