Perry Botkin - "Combines 3: Memories, Dreams, & Other Abstractions" (Perry Botkin Music Co 2000, PBM125)

From Aural Innovations #16 (June 2001)

The promo sheet that came with this CD indicates that Perry Botkin has a long history and experience with film and television, having composed the soap opera Young and the Restless' "Nadia's Theme", and earned an Oscar nomination for Bless The Beasts and the Children. At some point Botkin apparently felt the more adventurous tugs at this heartstrings and decided to move into composing experimental/avant-garde electronic music. Combines 3 is the final installment of a trilogy, and for those who are interested, the term "combines" derives from painter Robert Rauschenberg's mixture of photomontage and silkscreen techniques. (quoted from the CD liner notes.)

Botkin composes and plays in a highly dramatic, theatrical style that runs through a gamut of paces and emotions. Quirky, intense, whimsical, frenzied... I wasn't allowed a moment to catch my breath, my attention clamped in Botkin's grip. Botkin is a stunning keyboard player who communicates through varied sounds and aural textures, running through continually evolving themes that seem to draw on influences that recall everything from Mozart to Rogers & Hammerstein. In fact, as a big fan of the old MGM film musicals, the compositions often sound like a modern classical take on such music, in which I picture a chorus of dancers interpreting the high drama that is being communicated. The pace can become quite crazed, creating an edge-of-your-seat intensity that is as hair raising as it is gripping.

Among my favorite tracks is "Confused Youth", which opens with crazed avant-piano concerto/carnival music and a child speaking a medley of kids songs/poems, particularly the old "Jesus loves me this I know....". There's lots happening here as Botkin constructs multiple layers of synth patterns and piano, making for a combination that brings various influences to mind... his intense trademark dramatics, a symphony, Residents wackiness, and RIO styled progressive rock. On "Eurydice Arising", Botkin's high drama is well in evidence, and I love the keyboard that sounds like a child's Toys 'R Us piano. The piece starts off on the whimsical side, but soon evolves into an intense symphonic sound with heavy percussion. There are several moments that skillfully pulsate and wave back and forth between left and right channel such that under the headphones my eyes were rattling. Great effect.

Highly recommended to fans of their local symphony who dig electronic music and the avant-garde, as well as prog rockers who enjoy theatrically composed music. Despite the experimental nature of the pieces, this is by no means abstract, the drama and theme construction making for an emotional experience and one hell of a ride.

For more information and sound files you can visit Perry Botkin's web site at:
Contact via snail mail c/o Perry Botkin; 12999 Blairwood Dr; Studio City, CA 91604.

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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