Album Review Bryce Dessner - Impermanence / Disintegration

Bryce Dessner - Impermanence / Disintegration

A stirring reminder of the raw talent in the National fold.


Not to pit them against each other, but Bryce Dessner saw considerably less of the limelight than his brother did in 2020; with The National on ice as the pandemic raged, the guitarists busied themselves with other work - which, for Aaron, involved a famous visitor to his Long Pond studio, a couple of collaborative albums in ‘folklore’ and ‘evermore’, and an armful of Grammys. Bryce, meanwhile, already had new work in the can by the time the world closed down a year ago; this commission for the Sydney Dance Company was inspired by the wildfires that ravaged Australia in early 2020 and the accompanying performance piece has now, a year later, been performed in front of live audiences in a largely COVID-free city.

Bryce’s decision to release the score, performed by the Australian String Quartet, to an audience perhaps not as well-versed in the classical world as he is is not new; Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire has done similar in recent years. It does, though, offer an impressive glimpse of not only his technical ability as an arranger and composer - he was classically trained before he was ever involved with The National - but as a storyteller, too, crafting a narrative that incorporates both high drama - ‘Alarms’, ‘Emergency’ - and plaintive reflection on impending absence (‘Impermanence’), as he ruminates on the human cost of the fires before they’d even been put out. A nice bonus, too, is the inclusion of a reworking of ANOHNI’s ‘Another World’. A stirring reminder of the raw talent in the National fold.

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