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Newspeak is a “potent” (Alex Ross), “fierce” (Time Out NY) and “innovative” (New York Magazine) politically-charged octet, working under the direction of composer David T. Little and clarinetist Eileen Mack. Named after the thought-limiting language in George Orwell’s 1984, Newspeak explores the grey area where art and politics mix, seeking to reconsider, redefine, and ultimately reclaim the notion of socially engaged music. David T. Little describes the ensemble as “forged in the fires of Black Sabbath and Louis Andriessen, Dead Kennedys and Frederic Rzewski.” On sweet light crude, Newspeak brings stories of hope, loss, inaction and rage. Throughout, the group shows its unique ability to reach the transcendental highs of a great rock band while maintaining the lyricism, dexterity, and nuanced intricacy of classical chamber music.
The disc begins with Oscar Bettison’s furious “B&E (with aggravated assault)” – a mixed-meter revolution – followed by Stefan Weisman’s understated, enigmatic and passive “I Would Prefer Not To.” Passivity turns to obsession in David T. Little’s dark and crooked love song to oil, “sweet light crude,” which gives way to a glimmer of hope in Missy Mazzoli’s “In Spite of All This,” the quiet before the storm. That storm comes in Pat Muchmore’s apocalyptic, Nine Inch Nails-infused “Brennschuss”, which roars upon the listener with Pynchon-esque imagery, with guest vocals from Morean of the German black metal band Dark Fortress. When the storm clears, we’re left with a dust bowl, and the sounds of the howling wind, setting the scene for Caleb Burhans’ “Requiem for a General Motors in Janesville, WI,” which brings the album to its cathartic conclusion.
sweet light crude has been praised for its seamless fusion of rock and classical chamber music idioms as well as its unconcealed political messages; New Music Box finds it “devoid of the awkwardness one hears much too often in these attempts at cross-genre pollination”, Arcane Candy remarks that it “could easily keep a whole nation full of chamber rock lovers well lubricated for a whole year,” and The Silent Ballet finds it to “inhabit a world in which all genres are on an equal playing field.”