Lubomyr Melnyk, Melnyk Corollaries

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 06.26.13 in Reviews

If Lubomyr Melnyk were a painter instead of a pianist and composer, he might be termed an “outsider artist.” Melnyk, a Canadian musician of Ukrainian extraction, is one of those solitary geniuses who populate the margins of our various art worlds — in his case, working for decades on a style that he early on dubbed “Music in the Continuous Mode.” Developed in the ’70s and ’80s, this music is a wholly personal but winning combination of the mesmerizing patterns of American minimalism and the florid keyboard virtuosity of the late Romantics. Think Franz Liszt playing Terry Riley. Early recordings like the Tolkien-inspired “Galadriel” built a small but devoted cult following for Melnyk in the early ’80s, but Corollaries seems likely to introduce him to a potentially wider audience.

Think Franz Liszt playing Terry Riley

Like both Liszt and Riley, Melnyk likes to think big; many of his works unfold over extended periods of time, rarely clocking in at less than 10 minutes. That makes this a tough album to cherry-pick, although “Le Miroir d’Amour” is available separately. This work is unusual in its open, atmospheric use of the piano and its slow and graceful violin melody (played by producer Peter Broderick, an associate of the Danish electronic rock band Efterklang), although Melnyk’s trademark rapid arpeggios begin flowing in gradually building waves about halfway through. A more representative piece, and one that has strong echoes in fact of the earlier “Galadriel” period, is “The Six Day Movement,” which creates so much movement in both the lowest and highest ends of the piano that it reaches for the kind of transcendence we find in the repetitive trance music of Morocco or the dervishes of Western Asia.

But this new album also shows how Melnyk’s musical palette has grown: “A Warmer Place,” again with Broderick’s violin, echoes the sounds of ambient electronica, and “Nightrail From The Sun” offers a scintillating interplay between keyboard and guitar (played by Martyn Heyne) that grows increasingly electronic as the piece progresses. The album’s opener, “Pockets of Light,” includes Broderick’s tremulous singing as well as his violin and seems to orient Melnyk’s current effort at the post-rock crowd — with whom Melnyk may well find the larger audience that has so far eluded him.