At the end of last month, Starkland released Teetering on the Verge of Normalcy, the latest album featuring accordionist Guy Klucevsek. Unless I am mistaken, I had my first encounter with Klucevsek somewhere around 1988, when he appeared as a guest artist in a recital given by the Kronos Quartet. That was enough to convince me to purchase his Manhattan Cascade album, released by Composers Recordings, Inc. under their Emergency Music Series; and his kick-ass performance of John Zorn’s “Road Runner” did much to maintain my sanity during the years when I was doing multimedia research in Singapore.
Over twenty years have elapsed since then. Both of us are older. Both of us have had many experiences since then; and, with any luck, we are both the wiser for them. It is certainly the case that both of us have had to deal with the passing of others that we have admired, perhaps even as sources of inspiration. This may make me more susceptible to the memorial quality of many of the tracks on Teetering on the Verge of Normalcy than others. However, even in that context, there are still any number of impressive sharp edges in both the repertoire that Klucevsek has formed and his approach to playing it.
Also, while Manhattan Cascade and his more recent Transylvanian Software (another Starkland release) are solo albums, Teetering on the Verge of Normalcy features a generous number of guest artists. Indeed, two of Klucevsek’s compositions are piano solos performed by Alan Bern; and violinist Todd Reynolds plays a key role in the interpretations of many of the more memorial compositions on this album. As might be guessed, the tracks on this new album are not as wild and wooly as the sorts of performances Klucevsek could bring to interpreting Zorn or playing with the Kronos. Perhaps that more subdued rhetoric is what he has in mind by “normalcy;” but it is not out of the question that he also intended a jab at Warren Harding’s abuse of the English language. Nevertheless, the operative noun in the album title is “verge.” Klucevsek may be flirting with blunting some of his sharper edges, but he is still a far cry from being smooth and slick!