REVIEW: The Greatest Hoax – “Expiration Compositions”

Expiration Compositions – the sophomore outing by composer Taylor Jordan, a.k.a. The Greatest Hoax – is a perfectly okay record. The synth work is nuanced and studied and, for the most part, admirable, though I’m unsure if it lives up to its High Art premise about scoring the art of dying. And cellist Mark Bridges, on loan from Kranky Records act High Plains, is particularly engaging, lending the synth-washes and such with an air of proper Romanticism and longing. I just can’t get very excited about it.

It’s not entirely the songs. Pieces like “Left You Behind,” where piano notes twinkle in front of a backdrop of alien synths and Bridges’ borderline-quiet refrains, can be riveting stuff. Truly, truly. The record just doesn’t hold together.  For every illuminating moment (the funereal “You Never Learned A Thing”) there are moments where the compositions feel too aware of themselves, too artfully constructed (“Fading Away”). For every interesting piece of synth work, there’s something that leans just a little too much on conventionality (“As The Light Dims”) or gets a little too fixated on the nature of its own devices.

The record ends not with a beatific drone, which would seem appropriate given the material of inspiration here, but one that kind of meanders and doesn’t build much heat. Maybe it’s commentary and maybe it’s clumsiness. Jordan might need a better editor or more collaborators to flesh out his vision of Ars Moriendi. Expiration Compositions is a good start. But it feels less than fully cooked.

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