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Those Who Walk Away

Those Who Walk Away - The Infected Mass

The Infected Mass
Constellation - 2017

Michael Panontin
Matthew Patton describes The Infected Mass as "something very genuine and at the same time very wrong."

As the curiously named Those Who Walk Away, the Winnipeg-based composer (whose pedigree includes collaborating with Paul Taylor on the Emmy-winning dance piece Speaking in Tongues and curating the always-intriguing Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra New Music Festival) has given us a hugely powerful musical statement, a sort of modern-day threnody that is at once ethereal, menacing and profoundly disturbing.

The Infected Mass was recorded in Winnipeg and Reykjavik with a gaggle of string musicians, five from the Winnipeg area and another four from the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. But it is about as far from your stuffy high-brow chamber music as one could get. The seven pieces here - they are all about six or seven minutes in length - take violin, viola, cello and double bass and meld them with various samples and cockpit voice recordings of airplanes in distress. The effect is for the most part utterly transfixing and will be especially so for those who appreciate the ambient drone of :zoviet*france:, the found-sound intros on GY!BE records and perhaps even the holy minimalism of Arvo Part.

Patton attributes the haunting nature of the work to his own inner ghosts and, one would assume, the subsequent exorcism of them. "This work is disturbingly personal for me," he writes. "The music is filled with ghosts and artifacts I couldn't erase. It is filled to the saturation point with a pathology which infects everything, of decayed memories haunted by the ghost of my brother, who was killed in a plane crash."

The Infected Mass is without doubt a challenging, even uncomfortable, listen. But like so much difficult music out there, it is one where the patient listener is richly rewarded



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