You sit within a vast audience inside a grand hall suspended among the stars. A galaxy will be birthed soon, and a commemorative symphony will occur in its honor. Eager patrons shuffle and stumble through long aisles before finding their seats. The creation of a galactic body is breathtaking, but it is also chaotic and quite deadly. The performed music will embody both sides of the spectrum. Prepare for a performance unlike any other in the universe . . .
If “classical” and “experimental” function as descriptors for the music you enjoy, there’s a legitimate chance that this record could become your new favorite. The Soul Is The Arena is the newest full-length from accomplished composer Mario Diaz de Leon. Across these three equally fascinating and contrasting pieces, the skilled artist melds his all-encompassing electronics with an all-star cast of prodigious symphonic musicians.
The first two songs are duets, while the third operates as a vivid illustration of the far-reaching possibilities of chamber music. “Luciform” is an entrancing conversation between Diaz de Leon and flutist/MacArthur “Genius Grant” awardee Claire Chase. Title track “The Soul is the Arena” challenges the listener with a noisier dialogue between synthetics and Joshua Rubin’s versatile bass clarinet. It’s abrasive and beautiful.
Diaz de Leon fills the latter half of the record with “Portals Before Dawn,” an exploration through the experimentally-sublime capabilities of symphonic instrumentation. He plays synth and surrounds himself with a proficient collective of musicians from the International Contemporary Ensemble, producing some gorgeously picturesque sounds. If you’re seeking mind-expanding symphonic music, this album is for you.
– stasi (@stasisphere)