Vijay Iyer enjoys the challenge of translating unexpected material into the piano-trio format. His previous trio recording, Historicity, included works from Stevie Wonder and hip-hop artist M.I.A. Here, disco and electronic music fit nicely alongside works from Henry Threadgill and Herbie Nichols. And it all works because of Iyer’s singular aesthetic.
The disc’s title refers to an acceleration in tempo. Makes sense, given that one of Iyer’s trademarks is a push-pull shifting in meter, most evident on the title track. There’s also a bit of contradiction in Iyer’s style. He favors dense chords and complex left-hand phrases, but there’s also a sense of minimalism in his arpeggio-heavy melodic figures. The overall atmosphere is dark and hypnotic.
That feeling is easily apparent in original compositions like “Optimism.” But Iyer also uses this tension to great effect on his interpretation of “The Star of a Story” from 1970s disco group Heatwave. While bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore vamp a dance-heavy groove midway through the piece, Iyer’s four-note loop in the upper register produces an eerie, trance-like mood.
In fact, the unifying theme of this disc is Iyer’s fascination with dance music in all its forms. He delivers a silky take on Duke Ellington’s “The Village of the Virgins,” originally composed for Alvin Ailey’s ballet The River, and the title track was originally conceived as part of a dance suite.
Like many musicians of his generation, Iyer draws from a broad palette without a trace of irony — all types of music are fair game for deep exploration. But this disc is also evidence of an artist continuing to carve out his own space, and growing more assured in his approach.
—John Frederick Moore