The sound is polished and polite, full of that huggable indie-rock glee. But there remains plenty of fuzz and haze to derail any attempts at easy deciphering. "Handjobs for the Holidays" makes me want to embrace the first grubby sweater-wearer I see, just not in that way. "It's All Gonna Break" takes the cake: self-indulgent grandstanding that roughs up all the earlier veneer. For nine-plus minutes. It's ferocious. -- Carey Murphy
Arvo Part A Tribute Hilliard Ensemble **** & r & Arvo Part equals Steve Reich plus Christian faith and incense smoke. Imagine the sacred choral music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance -- votive lights, the soaring vaults of a cathedral, the fervency of prayers sent heavenward -- stripped down to a "holy minimalism." After secluding himself like a hermit during the early '70s, Part reemerged with a new style he called "tintinnabulation": a tinkling of little bells that modernized choral chant in one stroke.
Paul Hillier -- the man who wrote the book on Part, literally -- leads the Hilliard Ensemble and Theater of Voices in a celebration of the Estonian composer's 70th birthday. In the Credo of the Berlin Mass, two sopranos entwine in a double helix, swirling and ascending to glorify the Lord. The Agnus Dei is suffused with melancholy: Have mercy on us, Part's four-part harmony and droning organ seem to say, because we desperately need it.
A Tribute is a good introduction to a contemporary composer remarkable for being widely known even before he's dead. Though in Part's case, he'll live on. - Michael Bowen