Ken Thomson’s Restless features virtuoso cellist Ashley Bathgate (Bang on a Can All-Stars) and the emerging Brooklyn-based pianist Karl Larson (Bearthoven). The recording is the follow-up to Thomson’s Thaw (with JACK Quartet), which was released on Cantaloupe Music in 2013.
Restless, in four movements for cello and piano, and Me Vs., in three movements for solo piano, are two of Thomson’s most substantial chamber works. While their form and instrumentation are a clear nod to traditional idioms, Thomson’s signature blend of jazz, punk, and modern art music still simmers at the surface. Avant-garde influences peek through the opening strains of “Forge” and the long, tense silences of “Turn of Phrase,” while the dark, almost brooding tone of “Remain Untold” suggests the sonic cataclysm to come. Throughout Restless, these sometimes sudden shifts in mood and emotion suggest a world in turmoil.
Thomson’s music is notoriously difficult, and consistently demands the height of virtuosity and technical precision from each performer. Bathgate and Larson deftly navigate Thomson’s lengthy passages while steadily building the tension and density—in the end pushing the large-scale form to dramatic climaxes.