Pasa Tempos Music by Dan Welcher and Jamie XX
Places in the West
(Longhorn Music) Much as Thomas Moran or Georgia O’Keeffe memorialized the American West on canvas, Dan Welcher has repeatedly portrayed it in tones. He’s not a trendy composer, but his post-Coplandesque music has staunch integrity and is infused with an optimistic spirit that may inspire a listener to return for repeat visits — a rare attribute in contemporary scores. He has taught at the University of Texas in Austin for 37 years, and one of his school’s performing groups, the University of Texas Wind Ensemble, brings crackerjack polish to its interpretations of his works in this hearty disc, conducted by Jerry F. Junkin. Clocking in at 35 minutes, his Four Places in the West seems a symphony manqué, although its movements were not conceived as an entity and were introduced as standalone tone poems over many years. They convey his intense appreciation of national parks: Glacier (icy chill yielding to surging rivers and returning full circle to frigid expectancy), Yellowstone (depicting fire and renewal), Arches (a lonely landscape filled with birdsong), and Zion (incorporating early pioneer hymns). His Symphony No. 4, subtitled American Visionary, was conceived as a tribute extolling the interests and ideals of one of his university’s businessman-philanthropists. The piece ended up more compelling than one might hope, its energetic movements capably evoking machines, family, and community with sparkle and sincerity. — James M. Keller
JAMIE XX In Colour (Young Turks) British producer Jamie Smith (who performs as Jamie xx) first appeared to music audiences around the world with xx, the 2009 album by his band, which is also called the xx. That album is minimalist to the extreme, featuring music that is nearly stripped down to just bass and vocals — the album’s cover features a white x against a black background. Since then, he’s added bits and pieces to his sound with stray singles and a magnificent remix album with Gil Scott-Heron, and he’s also gradually brought color to his albums’ artwork. Now, his debut solo album finds him adorning the cover with the entire spectrum of hues and an on-the-nose title, and unsurprisingly, the music seems to burst forth with a full bouquet of tones, sounds, and melodic styles. While not always danceable, In Colour touches on elements of dance history: reggae, Caribbean music, hip-hop, disco, and much more appear, as he invites rapper Young Thug to join on one song and slides into a jungle rhythm on the next. The album highlight is “High Places,” a song with xx vocalist Romy Madley-Croft. It begins like an xx song, with just her voice over a quietly pulsing beat. As the song progresses, a choir-like array of voices join in on the chorus, eventually blossoming into a composition that feels gloriously oversized and, yes, full of color.