The transcendent craft of outré New York-based clarinetist, electronic soundscapist, and composer Jeremiah Cymerman rests in his blurring of myriad stylistic lines. His singular path has led him to improvisational journeys with the likes of Evan Parker and Nate Wooley, the electroacoustic metal-scapes of Bloodmist, Pale Horse’s doomy and cinematic chamber music, and the dystopian experiments he makes with guitarist Charlie Looker, just to name a few.
However invaluable Cymerman’s collaborators have been to helping craft his aesthetic, Citadels and Sanctuaries is testament to his prowess as a solo artist, his superhuman command over a hodgepodge of instruments and gizmos, and his postproduction skillset. His fifth solo album, it pays homage to Cymerman’s influences (see each track’s dedications) without approaching carbon-copy territory.
Recorded during a month-long residency at Brooklyn venue Pioneer Works at the tail end of 2020, Citadels and Sanctuaries runs an emotionally raw gamut, finding Cymerman in introspective mode around his milestone 40th birthday. The first two compositions, “From the Metaphysical to the Transcendental (for Bill Smith)” and “Spheres of Humanity (for Alvin Lucier),” are exquisite punches to the gut built on patient clarinet lines that are both snaking and melodic, peppered by ghostly synthesizer touches seemingly from some other universe. Cymerman’s musical approach is multifarious and classification-defying, taking in knob-twiddling noise on “With the Old Breed (for Nate Wooley),” blaring hypnotic clarinet drones on “The Absolute and Its Tearing (for Horațiu Rădulescu),” and reaching for the spiritual cosmos on “Conscious Faith (for Evan Parker).”
Speaking of twiddling knobs, Cymerman was also Citadels and Sanctuaries’ recording engineer. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better-sounding record—or a more bracing listen—this year.