In February 2017, Another Timbre released the first five albums in its Canadian Composers Series with recordings by Linda Catlin Smith, Martin Arnold, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Chiyoko Szlavnics and Marc Sabat, names which were relatively unknown at the time, only Smith having had a previous release, Dirt Road (2016), on the label. That first batch of albums was so well received that in August 2018 a second one was released comprising another album by Linda Catlin Smith, two by Cassandra Miller and one each by Alex Jang and Lance Austin Olsen.
Accompanying the Canadian Composers Series, a complimentary booklet contained essays about the composers as well as an introduction by Another Timbre's Simon Reynell who stressed that the selection of composers featured in the series was as much through happenstance as through any supposedly objective assessment of the merits of their music. To emphasise that point, Reynell included a list of ten other Canadian composers whose work he enjoyed and would happily produce if he had enough time and money. In 2021, Another Timbre released Verses by Barbara Monk Feldman (widow of Morton Feldman) who was one of the ten named by Reynell. Now comes Somatic Refrain by Allison Cameron who was also on that list of ten.
The album comprises four Cameron compositions, the fifteen-minute title track which dates from 1996 and features Heather Roche alone on bass clarinet, the three-part, twenty-four-minute "Retablo" (1998) performed by members of Apartment House with Cameron herself on acolyte bells and toy piano, the seventeen-minute "Pliny" (2005) again featuring Apartment House, and the thirteen-minute "H" (2008), a new mix of a recording of the three-member Allison Cameron Band which was originally made in 2009 at Hallamusic, Toronto, and closed the band's only CD to date, issued on the Rat-drifting label in 2010. As those brief descriptions suggest, Somatic Refrain is a very varied album, both in instrumentation and in style. Album releases by Cameron have been few and far between, so it was probably made sense to use this one to demonstrate the breadth of her music. Most of all, this album demonstrates that Cameron deserved her place on Reynell's list of composers he would happily produce. It also suggests we should be hearing more from Allison Cameron.
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