Through the looking-glass
London-based musician, James Batty, already a prolific composer for a variety of other musicians and ensembles, including the BBC Singers, has unveiled his debut solo project, Sanctuary (Overtones and Deviations) (Frozen Light/zeromoon). An electroacoustic composer with a distinct passion for the piano's sonic universe, he revels in seducing the listener into a world of surprises – where the verve of dissembled soundscapes and the upending of expectations of form work together to explode musical boundaries.
Sanctuary (Overtones and Deviations) is a work whose sound worlds radiate dissonance and incongruity. Astringent piano stylings clash with swooping synths interwoven with a dusting of harmonic overtones. The other sounds – guitar, violin, clarinet and more – are wilfully discordant and jarring. Batty gives the impression of having decided to completely discard the conventions of musical structure. And yet he still provides the opportunity to bathe in a gloriously accessible type of sound.
The immersive power of this collection of eleven compositions comes down to the intricacy and sophistication of the disconnect between the actual and the expected. Batty is conductor and maestro, bringing the disparate sounds together. The vision of the composition always trumps the tired assumption that certain elements or combinations are unworkable or unacceptable. Essentially, there is method in the madness of this striking new work. Quite startling for a young composer’s first attempt at going it alone.
Stephan Wolf (English translation by Geoff Pearce)