The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unrest worldwide, with no country handling it the same. Canada has tended to err on the safer side, while the United States has largely thrown caution to the wind. Right in between these approaches, Europe has found a fascinating middle ground when it comes to maintaining arts and culture during turbulent times.
The Sinfonietta Riga Chamber Orchestra of Latvia found themselves amidst this turmoil when attempting several times since 2020 to record exciting new guitar music by Krists Auznieks. Once the music was finally able to be performed live in 2021, the results became the album Coiled Horizons. It features two different approaches to the guitar: music for trio, performed by saxophonist Kārlis Auziņš, guitarist Matīss Čudars and the drumming/percussion of Ivars Arutyunyan, followed by an orchestral work that features the aforementioned Sinfonietta Riga Chamber Orchestra and classical virtuoso JIJI playing electric guitar.
The album begins slow and ambient but draws the listener in immediately with a generous soundscape. Despite sounding like an adventurous jazz trio at first, Auziņš, Čudars and Arutyunyan wait until close to 20 minutes into the disc before providing something close to a “groove.” This makes for a beautiful transition into the album’s more classical sounding second half.
The orchestral finale to this recording is a specimen to behold, fusing dense 20th-century composition with virtuosic guitar playing. No matter how ambient the first half gets, and however dense the second, this is a treat to listen to as foreground or background music.