Angus MacRae is a British composer and pianist based in London. Throughout his career, he has explored the relationship and intersection between classical and electronic music; finding directions and pairings in order to conjugate both. His achievements range from solo releases to film scores, theatre, shows and contemporary dance projects. His latest project, a compilation, — MMXIX, released on the composer’s own label, Nation of the Sea — provides a portrait of a passing year; a time lapse of MacRae’s work in 2019.
The compilation can be divided into three main bodies of works.
The less surprising and most faithful to the composer collection of pieces is centered around piano solo. Intimate works, that reveal the sensitivity and simplicity of MacRae, and musical traits such as a focus on precision, space, melody and even production — many pieces reveal a textural layer underneath the sound of the piano. “Stone Angel”, “Santajärvi”, “From Jasper”, “Solstice” and “Undone” all fall into this first category.
Strings — especially the cello — are often used as a secondary creative medium, and many pieces — including “Gloaming”, “Tigerlily” and “Two on the Breakwater” — allow for weeping, scratching and itching of strings, and contrasting lyricism.
“Inari” feels like an orphan piece, however is essential as it depicts MacRae’s talent at composing for speechless voices.
Finally, two pieces are reworked — or reimagined — by the composer, in a sort of parallel dimension. The same material through a different filter for “Tigerlily”, while “Inari” goes under a completely different treatment, almost like an urban remix — throughout the use of drum machines, and an emphasis on rhythmic instead of melodic content. Eventually, and on a similar approach, “Wait for the Light”, involves many layers of percussive electronic sounds and instruments.
While many compilations often fail to connect the pieces together and appear as a commercial opportunity rather than an artistic statement, it is with MMXIX very different. It seems that, throughout the passing year, each piece has been composed with the other ones in mind; whether already existing or in the imagination of the composer. There is a cohesion and almost a story telling. This, or it simply the musical personality of MacRae that is strong and inventive enough to appear in one form or another in each one of his creations.