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Published: 2009/06/15
by Brian Robbins

Time Turns Elastic – Trey Anastasio

Rubber Jungle
As many moments of brilliance and joy as there are on the soundboards from Phishs Hampton reunion run, none have struck me the way my first pass through Trey Anastasios new Time Turns Elastic did. Composed by Anastasio and Don Hart, this three-movement piece for vocals, guitar, and orchestra could have been named Symphony for Earnest Ernest: Clear-Eyed and Smiling. It just may be one of the best flashes of clear, unfiltered post-rehab Trey-light yet.

Even though the ratio of rest-of-the-ensembleto-Anastasio is much higher with the Northwest Sinfonia Orchestra than it is in Phish, theres still something more intimate about Anastasio’s performance on Time Turns Elastic. Phishs group hug lasted for three nights when Anastasio’s Languedoc comes skipping across the symphonic countryside at the 0:50 mark of the opening movement, it feels like a personal moment that were being allowed to witness. (The scene is a powerful one: there could be a sonic foundation of 1000 pieces, but theres no mistaking that guitar. It has nothing to do with volume just sheer tone and emotion.) The music builds, climbing to a peak and leaping; the freefall transforms into an arms-outstretched glide and a gentle spiral back to earth. The mood shifts: as the orchestra settles into a tension-filled tiptoe, the Languedoc sings the blues as openly as it ever has. Sometimes sobs are answered; sometimes theyre left alone.
(Dont get me wrong: three cheers for the boys as a band it goes without saying that a happy, healthy, and creative Anastasio is a happy, healthy, and creative Phish and I hope the foursome continue to make music together as long as it is fun and fulfilling rather than heavy and draining. Weve come as close to the 1995 Dead vibe as we need to, folks is everyone scared sufficiently? Im not dismissing any of the Phish 3.0 performances thus far; Im only saying that listening to TTE is like a visit with the man himself.)
It feels as if an immense amount of soul cleansing has gone down by the time the first movement ends a total of nine minutes and 46 seconds of some of the purest Anastasio you may have ever heard. By the second movement, the purging has made room for the main themes vocal (Submarine), leaving it free to fly. Once again, the sheer mass and depth of the orchestral backdrop makes Treys vocal sound all the more intimate were in this together.
I wont pummel you with a blow-by-blow of the full piece. The point that needs to be made is that if you felt like 2004s Seis de Mayo was an orchestral experiment that Trey just needed to get beyond, then so be it. Time Turns Elastic is much more than that. This is a statement, not a question.
Over the years, I have used Dark Star to spin the head of more than one person who claimed to have a taste for jazz but wouldnt touch the music of the Dead. To a one, if they had any kind of open mind at all, they would feel the parallels and hear the music usually going on to seek more Dead on their own. Time Turns Elastic is similar: dont be put off by the classical tag, my friends. Its music. You say you require the tension-and-release of a Stash jam? Youll find it here big time. Let yourself get caught up in the emotion as immense seas of strings are pierced by mountains of percussion erupting from the core of the earth; when the waves subside, youll be trying to catch your breath only to be gathered up and swept away again. What a ride.
Lets be honest: if it wasnt Anastasio, would I be making this same case for you to listen to Time Turns Elastic?
No but it is.
And for that, were very fortunate.

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