Peter Pears is one of those very rare albums which is totally unique in structure and concept. Nine songs written by Thomas Bartlett and Nico Muhly inspired by three gamelan transcriptions by ethnomusicologist Colin McPhee which inspired the songs. This concept results in an album with a lot of diversity as the traditional and modern, analogue and contemporary combine and separate in new ways. The gamelan instrumentals clearly influence how the more electronic or dance pieces have been written, whether in the way the pacier tracks with electronic beats are composed or in the way the more traditional instrumental pieces are performed.
This is an exceptional album, both in concept and execution. Notwithstanding their stylistic diversity you can certainly hear the influence of Colin McPhee’s three gamelan transcriptions throughout. The patterns produced by the music are generally very beautiful, stark and repetitive, influenced by the Balinese musical style but with key changes and transitions that make them more emotionally recognisable for a western audience. While all the tracks appear at different points on the registrar of intensity, they all capture something of the delicacy of the gamelan instrument and its conscientious ceremonial effect. The overall tone is somehow simultaneously tense and light, dramatic and calming, an originality which few albums can fully lay claim to.