In her bid to become the leading terpsichorean patron of avant-rock music, choreographer Twyla Tharp followed projects with David Byrne and Glenn Branca by commissioning a score from Van Tieghem, a multi-instrumentalist mainly known as a drummer in the Love of Life Orchestra and other New York experimental ensembles. Working with many local luminaries, Van Tieghem’s music for Fait Accompli (released as These Things Happen) covers a wide range of styles, from African-tinged rhythms to obscure pop. The interpolation of extraneous bits of found sounds (news, animal noises, etc.) keeps things going when the music threatens to drag, which — given its subordinate role as accompanying earwork — it frequently does.
Excerpts from two subsequent ballet scores and another theatrical project appear on Safety in Numbers, as well as a pair of trans-Pacific computer collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto. Ultra-modern electronic equipment and ancient acoustic instruments blend harmoniously into an unidentifiable but fascinating sonic stew that favors percussion sounds more than rhythmic adventurism. Much of the album is spare and open, a well-ordered and dynamic backdrop for dances — and dreams.
Van Tieghem’s unexpected (and surprisingly attractive, in a cool, Enoesque fashion) vocal performance on “Volcano Diving” is in keeping with the warm allure of Strange Cargo. Co-produced with Laurie Anderson collaborator Roma Baran and others, the record is lively and upbeat, evading wallpaper ambience with invention and enthusiasm.