> Archive > Music Review 49

1 April 2002

Ákos Garai: Fjern Hjem
ARC / Aidan Baker: Repercussion
Bus: Western EP
Gal: Relisten
Koop.: Waltz for Koop.
Diane Labrosse / Martin Tétreault: Parasites
Lethe: Sleep Digest
Andy Moor / Kaffe Matthews: Locks
Narita Mamoru: Music for Butoh Dance Improvisation
Kiyoshi Mizutani: Yokosawa-iri
Serious Naan: Naan Trax
Shalabi Effect: The Trial of St-Orange
Elisabeth Valletti: Innocenti
Vladislav Delay: Naima


ÁKOS GARAI: Fjern Hjem

Ákos Garai is a sound artist and concert organizer based in Hungary. Fjern Hjem is his self released debut. This single 35 minute piece, which on the whole is quiet and tranquil, begins with a beautiful, low end ambient drone. This drone serves as the foundation for the first half of the piece, the ground upon which all other sounds will be placed. Throughout, higher frequency tones weave in and out of the mix in brief glimpses, creating some interesting harmonies along the way. As the piece progresses, new elements are introduced, a piercing high frequency tone, a swirling ambience, until it all fades into a near-silence. About half way through the piece, the low end drone disappears and a new set of sounds are introduced. This time they seem like interior sounds: the hum of a furnace or a fan, perhaps, distant and muted drones fluctuating only faintly. The piece ends suddenly, leaving you at the edge of a precipice, desperate and enchanted. It's an engaging and promising debut, and in spite of it being an independently released CDR, hopefully it will garner the attention it deserves. [Richard di Santo]



ARC / AIDAN BAKER: Repercussion
Piehead Records | PIE001 | CDR

Repercussion is the inaugural release for Piehead Records, a new Toronto based label run by the prolific DJ and events organizer Greg Clow alongside his wife Sheryl Kirby, with whom he also co founded Stained Productions, their event promotions company. 2002 will be a busy year for Piehead: they are planning no less than eleven limited edition CDR releases from an impressive roster of artists, including I8U, David Kristian, V/Vm and Matmos (recording under the name Vague Terrain Recordings), among others.

This is not our first encounter with Aidan Baker, nor with the ambient trio ARC. Primarily a guitarist, Aidan Baker has two impressive self-released full lengths to date (both Element and Letters have been reviewed in these pages). As ARC, Aidan is joined by Richard Baker and Christopher Kukiel on percussions. Since 1999, they have been making their own brand of improvised ethno-ambient music, mostly during live sets at the Ambient Ping in Toronto. Looking over their previous releases, they have not always been able to capture my interest entirely, the pounding of hand drums and Aidan's heavily processed guitar loops often seem like variations on a single theme. Not so with Repercussion, clearly their most varied and impressive outing to date. Each of the four long tracks cover a diverse ground of moods and elements. For this release, Aidan has taken a live performance by ARC and reworked the material, adding various elements (from percussion, flute, tapes, voice and various objects) to create a sound that is more dynamic and full. The music shifts from tribal ambience (à la Steve Roach, O Yuki Conjugate, et al.) to more abrasive and harsh experiments on guitar and feedback loops. To be sure, the "ARC sound" is still very much alive here, all the familiar elements take shape in one form or another, but there's by far more variation on this release than on past efforts. It's an excellent start to a promising series of releases from Piehead Records. [Richard di Santo]



BUS: Western EP
~scape | SC 10 | 12"

Ever interested in exploring the permutations of dub, Pole’s label ~scape—which brought us such experimental masterworks as Kit Clayton’s Nek Sanelet and the Staeditizism compilations—returns with a slow and contemplative record. Embracing a mellower tonality and presence than the rougher granular experiments of Kit Clayton, Bus’ downtempo dub is clean and precise in its sound yet complex in its composition. Western is a timely follow up to Pole’s R, which saw Stephan Betke experiment with piano riffs and guitars in his crackley trademark of subsonic bass and spatialized echoes. Likewise, Bus embraces not only harmonized piano rhythms, guitar samples, and percussion, but also pop music production. The blend of a dub tempo with careful echoes, guitar pluckings and strangely subdued yet melodramatic piano chords invites the listener to carefully listen to the construction of the eight minute title track, which reveals a subtlety of composition and restraint of palette that is rare in today’s electronica. By restraint and subtlety, I don’t just mean a deliberate depression of sound volume or experimental exploration of microsound in barely audible frequencies. In fact, "Western" is freshly pleasant as it refrains from using the high-pitched sine waves and granular drones that have become omnipresent in so many electronic-dub releases. Instead, it offers carefully constructed and processed placements of natural sounding instruments (drums, toms, guitars, pianos) in a repetitive dub framework that nonetheless is evolving through mutations of its structure—without revealing so much the process of this evolution as the joy of the underlying thematics of the piece, which speaks of a pop melodrama that is only hinted at on the title track. The strategy is one of narrative over process, despite—and perhaps because of, which marks the aporetic nature of this distinction—the structure undoubtedly dedicating itself to the procession of sounds. This means that the postmodern attention to process is paradoxically "advancing" through a paradoxical linearized repetitive narrative, thereby conceptually redefining or reconstructing the structural components of what is called a "fugue" in classical music. Therefore, judged upon the apparatus of a fugue, and in order for this EP to truly succeed, it will reveal more of this procession and melodrama—or different angles of it—in each successive track.

"Spanish Techno" is a much more upbeat play of emotions, and reveals significant elements of the melodrama that "Western" carefully scattered throughout its entire length. Utilizing the breakbeat structure to investigate the energy of the drama, the track is simpler than "Western," allowing for a direct exploration of the bassline and 2/4 dub chord that evokes the repetitive nature of (Spanish) techno. Revelling in its mediated energy, the track limits itself to about four minutes, which gives enough time to let remixers AG Penthouse (Jorg Burger and Antonelli Electric) fully unveil—if only briefly—the underlying emotive psychodrama of Bus’ dub topographies. Beginning essentially where the original "Western" left off, the "Western" remix embraces from the start the seriousness of the original in a framework of determined yet psychedelic reverie. The "Western" piano riff comes to full fruition in a delicate swash of reverb, and a beautiful sample of a female vocalist singing—or perhaps humming?—a harmonic scale floats over the structured sentimental wandering. A spoken word sample, presumably from the same female vocalist, opens the track in a way reminiscent of early ‘90s ambient house music (np. The Orb). High-pitched strings compliment the contrapuntal chorus of vocal scales, and finally, after a laid-back repetition of melodic piano, the slightly vocoded chorus occupies the track: "Give me a reason why/ Be my space to occupy"—and after a few bars, the song is done. Although the "Western" remix is eight minutes long, it seems much shorter—which is a feat considering it manages to usher in a new variant of ambient house with space pop tendencies. Overall, the culmination of these three tracks presents a fugue of not only thematic discernment but also hybrid of genres and musical processes. [Tobias c. van Veen]



GAL: Relisten
Intransitive Recordings | CD | INT 018

Sound art and conceptual sound work from radio art to field recordings and soundscapes have always intrigued me. At their best, they guide me through a topology of the real world in sound, perhaps modified in subtle ways to re-code my expectations of the particular situation; at their brilliant moments, the move from the real to the imaginary and allow me to conjure visions of forms and colours or spectacular alien worlds from the sounds drifting through my ears. Bernhard Gal’s Relisten is every bit a complex and detailed work of sound art that not only embraces some of the best the "genre" has to offer, but also glides through a variety of projects that explores the versatility of the artist. The first piece, "It’s like…", explores the idioms of American language: "It’s like," "Stuff, "Um…", etc. While perhaps not the best piece to begin the album with—it is mildly irritating for a North American English speaker; Gal is from Vienna and so the language is alien to him in that respect—it pursues its objective without overextending its point. At 5 minutes, it is a fascinating look at all the little things we are constantly saying that mean absolutely nothing at all. The next track, "bee bee," is processed from field recordings of the Brooklyn Bridge. Slowly rising out of silence and into the audible, the processed bridge hum is overlaid atop itself to bring out sonic resonances that take on the formation of swarming bees. The effect is sublime and restrained, allowing the listener to ingest the soundscape over a course of 15 minutes and preparing the ears for the sharp punctuations of train sounds and bells that begin the next piece, "57A," which moves in and out of abstract interpretation through the staccato of the train sounds itself. But abstraction is where the next piece goes: "lv, nv" investigates the harmonics found in processing field sound through what appears to be a granular generator. Although pleasant to listen to as it explores the curves of the harmony, the 12 minute length of the piece calls for a deeply meditative listen, and I cannot help but wonder if Gal simply processed the entire file through Audiomulch or Max/MSP, playing with a few filter and resonance cut-offs. At times it sounds that way, and to the studio-ear, it lacks somewhat in originality. As if to reveal what is behind most of the work—a reminder of the sounds found in the real—"Tong-hua yia-shi" is a raw field recording from a Taiwanese market, an inquisitive wander through a busy Canto-Pop infused confusion of what is to me a variety of hectic alien languages. The recording is high-quality, and Gal seems to be sliding about the space, placing his mic in the right spots to give a real taste of the heat, the dripping meat and slippery sidewalks, the music and cheap Hello Kitty toys. "68th Street" is the last piece and, like "bee bee," combines the best elements of traditional "soundwalks" (a la Hildergaard Westerkamp) with contemporary sound processing. Dark thunks and echoing scratches lightly punctuate wavering synthetic tones and hums, giving way to morphed and indistinguishable voices and background chatter, high frequencies contemplating the destruction of low demonic rumbles, sculpting less a topology of the space—although that can be imagined in the title—than the emotion of the street and the interpretation of that violence into sound: the overwhelming presence of the city, the people, masses of people, the cars and the pollution, busy bees, all working, the city humming, producing, producing… [Tobias c. van Veen]



Byall Records | CDR

Based somewhere in England, Hradesin is a group producing soundtracks for advertising, film and multimedia applications. Information on the group is a little uncertain (their website contains almost no information on who its members are), but looking at the credits it seems to consist of a trio of artists, involving concepts by Pinky (aka Robert) White and Chris Mizsak, with engineering support by D. Middleton. The tracks on this self titled CD were selected from their four other releases, presenting a short survey of their work over the past two years. The music is mostly ambient, featuring a nice collection of peaceful sounds and atmospheres created using a mix of electronic and acoustic instrumentation. The instruments (piano, dulcimer, flute) add a certain organic touch to the music, which is otherwise comprised of subtle electronic textures, sampled strings and the occasional field recordings of similarly tranquil environments. Only the fifth track ("South") ventures into more rhythmic territory, with a mellow yet jubilant electronic rhythm. The final track, featuring excerpts from a longer piece titled "Conium," is carried by a slow, sad melody on what sounds like a doudouk (a flute form the middle east). This last piece is clearly influenced by Peter Gabriel's integration of world music into his own soundtrack work (specifically on Passion). The results are quite beautiful and well executed, even a little melancholy, but it's nothing we haven't heard before. Here I find that my impressions become divided. On the one hand, this music certainly has its interesting moments; the arrangements are well formed and the sounds are nice enough, having been engineered with admirable clarity. But on the other, it doesn't do enough for me in terms of presenting new sounds and ideas. Perhaps this is the perfect music for effective advertising after all: smartly produced and pleasing on the surface, always managing to catch your interest on some level, but never quite succeeding in holding onto it for very long. [Richard di Santo]



KOOP.: Waltz for Koop.
Jazzanova Compost Records | JCR 021-2 | CD

Some of the best music spun by nu-jazz and deep house DJs is a study in influences and combinations. They blend funk, jazz and house, adding elements of heavier, thicker techno or what is currently defined as progressive house. Waltz For Koop truly defies any classification yet does reflect a mix of the aforementioned elements. The difference is the key to what separates Koop from the rest of the deep house pack, and rests in the style of jazz Koop uses as the foundation for all songs on the album. The style of jazz is swing. A cool, sophisticated swing that begins in the sunshine of a summer afternoon and gradually darkens until the listener is transported to a smoky jazz club at 3am. Based in Stockholm, producers/composers Magnus Zingmark and Oscar Simonsson believe the swing era, which peaked in the late 50s, has never subsided; they believe it to be "true" jazz. Koop seeks to make "true" jazz with a heavy house bend, incorporating beats and samples into the more dominant and swingin’ jazzy melodies. Most of the tracks are vocal pieces, featuring the bossanova and lounge stylings of Yukumi Nagano, Cecilia Stalin, Earl Zinger, Mikael Sundin and Terry Callier. The disc leads with the title track, a wistful orchestral composition that floats like ice cream in your Cherry Coke and a bassline that briefly hints at some underlying darkness but quickly jumps into the light with a sparkling piano solo. The second track, titled "Tonight," produces visions of an early Vegas lounge with its emotive sax solos. "Baby" recalls New York on a Sunday afternoon; it is cool but comforting, a traditional swing track that contains an extremely funky flute solo. "Summer Sun," for which Koop has released an interesting video available on their website, is pure happy music, its uplifting piano and vocals produce a sound not unlike that of a 70s sitcom theme. At this point the album gradually loses its cheerful attitude and starts to move in another direction to a place where dancing girls, smoky rooms and fedoras are the norm, where be-bop and swing rule and where jazz clubs stay open well into early morning hours. "Relaxin’ at Club F****n" is a perfect example of this smooth, complex groove with a dark beat and plaintive sax, this tune is true lounge music. Koop mixes it up on this CD and the transition from light to dark adds an extra layer of complexity. There is a lot of cookie cutter deep house floating around out there, a generic sound that can get slow, even dull. Waltz for Koop presents a new idea of deep house, marrying the vocal elements of swing with strong acoustic basslines, soulful horns and smooth transitions, creating a style you’ve never heard before. [S. Mac Kenzie]



Ambiances Magnétiques | AM 096 | CD

Beginning with crackled sound, almost abrasive and entirely disruptive, Labrosse and Tétreault shake the listener into thinking that one is listening to a new work by the electroacoustic duo Interface. But things take an entirely different turn within seconds, and interspersing the sound-cackle-crackles with silence leads the listener to humming and resonating melancholic spaces that can only be properly described as underwater caverns. In these caverns are Cave People; and they are composing music. It is a peaceful time, and by the time track 5, "sponger," rolls around—these are very short tracks, all about two minutes or so in length, except for track 11, "a coal eye," which is 10 minutes—I am fully immersed in the sketches of sound which paint a visual aura to the impressively wide range of experimentation found from track to track. For example, track 6, "insomnia of a bed-bug," disrupts underwater-land and introduces radio static-hum which, in a playful mood, dances with the clicks of a clock. That the elements are cavorting with each other should come as no surprise, for like Interface, Tétreault and Labrosse are a live improv duo; but unlike Interface, they manage to maintain my interest by moving through different phases of sound as well as conceptual environments, easily handling slight noise and static, tones, hums, and clicks. Labrosse, according to the liner notes, works solely with "abstract elements." I am not sure what the entails in terms of gear, the hazy blue picture of the duo leaves the details indiscernible. Tétreault works directly with turntables: no records, just manipulating the sounds to be found in the decks themselves. Given this palette, both Tétreault and Labrosse manage to construct a dramatic and engaging topology of sound which, for the most part, is in the experimental ambient genre, and in moves of inspired stage magic, know exactly when to end a sound that has lost its ability to engage the listener. A succinct and playful album of experimental madness which, despite—and perhaps because of—its overwhelming undertones of intelligence, does not force the listener into obscurity. [Tobias c. van Veen]



LETHE: Sleep Digest
Pale-Disc | PD-05 | CDR

Lethe is the collaborative project between two Japanese improvisers, Kikuchi Yukinori (electronics) and Kuwayama Kiyiharu (guitar, cello, handmade electronics). Sleep Digest is the fifth release on Kiyaharu's own Pale-Disc label. Yukinori is a new name for me, but we have heard Kiyaharu's work before as the duo Kuwayama-Kijima (with Kijima Rina). As a duo, Lethe uses electronics, guitar and cello to make their own brand of improvisations that range from quiet and desolate soundscapes, full of irregularities and surprising sounds (both acoustic and electronic), to more abrasive aural textures with greater intensity. Consider the quiet sound palette on the first piece, "Sleep Digest," only to be answered by the abstract screeching of electric guitar (?) in "Heavy Hydrogen." Or consider the understated rhythm of "Nautilus Style," answered in turn by the dissonant echoes and cold, dark sounds of "Crawl Stroke" and "High Light." Lethe certainly keeps the sounds shifting, always dynamic and intriguing, and always full of surprises. Even with all this variety, however, the mood is predominantly dark and full of tension, without much light shining through. I've been listening to this disc periodically over the last month or so, and every time I discover things I hadn't noticed before. A very strong release, and excellent work. [Richard di Santo]



NARITA MAMORU: Music for Butoh Dance Improvisation
Pale-Disc | PD-07 | CDR

Music For Butoh Dance Improvisation brings together a series of original pieces by musician and dancer Narita Mamoru. The recordings span the nine-year period between 1990 and 1998, and were captured either on stage or on the street. Butoh is a style of avant-garde dance combining improvisation, theatre and dance; a mysterious yet striking meeting point between traditional Japanese performance art and German expressionist dance, yet somehow transcending both traditions into something entirely its own. It is easy to imagine a Butoh performance when listening to Mamoru's music: its mysterious tones and slow movements suggest a musical equivalent to Butoh performance art. Using strings, a variety of metallic instruments (bells, bowls, gongs?), unidentifiable objects and perhaps even occasional electronics (this is all a little uncertain), Mamoru creates arrangements that are challenging and open, full of obscure scrapings, metallic resonance and clamorous noises. They draw you in with their subtle sounds, irregular scrapings and drones, bowed strings, cold atmospheres and strange harmonies, and punctuate the quieter moments with occasional loud strikes. The pieces are mostly short (between 2 and 4 minutes, with only a few exceptions), and each one explores its own theme, its own collection of sounds. Only faint rhythms appear from time to time. I would venture a guess that among Mamoru's objects and instruments are a few metal singing bowls, for on at least one track we can hear the wooden playing stick making its rotations on the metal as an evolving multi-frequency tone shifts its intensity with each rotation. This is music that demands your attention and, although it may be a little heavy for one sitting, surely rewards the careful listener; it's lost with casual or background listening. Sit back, turn up the volume and let nothing distract you: this is theatre for the ears. [Richard di Santo]




This is the inaugural release on CMR, a new label run by Richard Francis, who also operates the 20 City label. Kiyoshi Mizutani is a name some of you may recognize from his work with Merzbow. Although he has continued exploring electronic noise and feedback recordings throughout his career, this new release focuses on a more tranquil territory, using field recordings of a quiet, natural environment as the basis of composition. Yukosawa-iri takes its name from the location where Mizutani gathered his sound material, an agricultural environment consisting of a mountain, a rice field and a small village. The sounds of this "Satoyama" (as it is called in Japan) are overwhelmingly peaceful. Mizutani seems to have has captured the true essence of this beautiful and quiet place. And yet what we have here is not simply a series of aural snapshots or straightforward field recordings. The sounds in the original recordings have been isolated and reassembled to create new sound environments containing all elements from the original locations (wind, bird songs, grasses, rocks, children, etc.), but in different combinations. Only once does the intrusive sound of machinery take form in the foreground, making a sharp incursion into the natural environment. It's no accident that the machine in question is an electric saw, that which literally and figuratively disturbs the environmental peace. It's an engrossing new work, masterfully executed, and highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]



Unsounds | U 02 | CD

Improvisers Kaffe Matthews and Andy Moor have been performing together since 1998. Matthews has certainly been keeping busy lately with a number of collaborative projects, working with Mimeo, Jon Rose, Pan Sonic and Christian Fennesz, among others. When I first heard her work, on Pointy Stunt with Hayley Newman, her improvisational talents and unconventional sampling techniques won me over immediately. Andy Moor is probably better known for his continuing work as a guitarist with the Ex, as well as his other projects past and present, Dog Faced Hermans (improv post-punk) and Kletka Red (improv Klezmer fusion) respectively. Locks documents a series of live and studio collaborations recorded throughout 2000 between London, Amsterdam and Paris. Matthews and Moor create a kaleidoscope of intense sounds and shifting textures, never following the same thread for too long, but still keeping things sharply focused and on track. Moor's electric guitar is relentless and energetic; he produces some fascinating sounds with his instrument, sometimes harsh and rough around the edges, and sometimes melodic. Matthews works magic with her "live converter," and is able to conjure maelstroms of complex sounds just as easily as calm and tranquil sections of quiet, ominous tones. The pieces are broken up into shorter tracks, but essentially these pieces flow into larger groups, and the whole thing seems to be mixed in such a way that it all seems like a one giant marathon performance. Adventurous, energetic and spirited, this is by no means easy listening, but who said experimental improv should be easy? Recommended. [Richard di Santo]



Consume | CoN 006 | CDR

Serious Naan is a collaboration between Lonny Bashee and The Stare. Right from the opening sounds, you know this is going to be one strange journey. Throughout the nine tracks of varying length featured here, electronically manipulated voices speak ominously of "the Naan," thick ambience and bizarre electronics work in interesting combinations to create some very dark and disturbing tracks. Sometimes I found myself laughing, amused by the warped creativity found in this music. At others, I was intrigued by the inventive collage of sounds. At others still, I became a little annoyed, as in "Black is the colour of my true love's hair," with its repetitive spoken text and its unsettling kaleidoscope of harsh sounds. But in the end I have to praise the Naan for keeping things interesting and varied throughout. They've certainly got a lot of ideas, as dark and perplexing as they may be; this is something that would probably do the surrealists proud. What a trip. [Richard di Santo]



SHALABI EFFECT: The Trial of St-Orange
Alien8 Recordings | ALIENCD32 | CD

Housed in a lushly photographed sleeve, this second release by Montréal’s Shalabi Effect traverses over terrain that is simultaneously beautiful and forbidding. The group has four core members: Anthony Seck, Sam Shalabi, Alexandre St-Onge and Will Eizlini. Last year's self-titled release (also on Alien8) is a meandering double-disc collection of "psychedelic music." This disc is also billed as an "exploration of Middle Eastern-influenced psychedelia," and while the Middle Eastern influence is definitely present, I think the predominant spirit behind these recordings is less psychedelic and more intrinsic. The disparate elements that make up these recordings seem to work in an intensely symbiotic nature: whispered voices, treated guitar, tempered feedback, humming electronics, oud, bass and some extremely wicked percussion combine to create a musical world that stimulates all of one’s senses in one go.

The first six tracks account for about 30 minutes’ worth of music, and they flow extremely well together. Soft ambience is heard at the outset, complete with bird calls, a babbling brook and some deliciously deep gongs. The recording is replete with an unabashed amount of analogue hiss, but this adds to the suspense. When the hiss is as loud as it is here, one never knows how loud the actual recorded sounds might get. It definitely captures one’s attention from the start. Although Shalabi Effect are known for their improvisational work, the first half-hour of this disc feels quite well planned out. From the intentionally slow-paced start to the programmed rhythms on the track "Mr. Titz (The Revelator)," we see the definite course of action Shalabi Effect have planned for their audience.

The final track on the disc, "A Glow in the Dark," is a 15-minute piece that is more akin to the less structured approach that dominated their first release. Plenty of feedback, growling voices and less overall rhythm set this section apart from what preceded it. Initially, its heaviness appears to detract from the overall flow of the disc, but when all is said and done, Shalabi Effect prove that they have a dynamic power over the nature they have created. After a few moments of silence, an acoustic, harmonic piece appears at the end of the disc. A "hidden track" if you will, but one that brings everything together in sublime form.

It’s hard to deny the skillful musicianship of all those involved here, and when they come together, they have the ability to create a striking energy that is spirited and exquisite. Few bands I know of today possess this synergy, and fewer still can record it to disc as Shalabi Effect have done here. [Vils M DiSanto]



Colombe D'or | CDCOL 10001 | CD

Originally released back in 1997, this release from harpist, vocalist and composer Elisabeth Valletti has remained unknown to me until I discovered it recently, quite by accident. I knew of Valletti's music via her contributions to Hector Zazou's Sahara Blue (1991) and Chansons des Mers Froides (1994); the presence of her harp in this music is a light and delicate element among Zazou's complex arrangements and icy atmospheres. On Innocenti, her debut and only solo record to date, she is joined by a small group of musicians, including Pandit Dinesh and Nico Gallard (percussions), Richard Bourreau (violin), Emmanuel Oriol (trumpet), Jim Lowe (guitar) and Jean-Michel Reusser (loop treatments), who also co-produced most of the tracks. But perhaps the most salient contributor here is Renaud Pion on woodwinds (clarinets, flutes and an Akai Electronic Woodwind Instrument). Pion is another name that might be known to Zazou's listeners, a ubiquitous presence on the majority of his releases. His woodwinds are light of body yet their sounds are rich and arranged in compelling phrases.

The music of Innocenti is of an intimate sort; one imagines this being recorded in a quiet church, sheltered from the everyday, from the rush of modern life. Valletti electronically modifies the acoustic properties of the harp in order to create a unique electro-acoustic hybrid, expanding its sonic spectrum and tonal possibilities (she was also a part of the team who creating the first electric harps ever made). The sound is mysterious, acoustic and electronic, warm and cool, but always intimate and close, wrapped in a mantle of stillness and silence. The compositions take their inspirations from a broad mix of styles, from classical to avant-garde, from jazz to world music. Hand percussions and violin lend their acoustic-organic qualities, a trumpet sounds with sadness, subtle electronic textures make ripples on the water, while various woodwinds breathe unexpected life through the arrangements. In a number of pieces, her voice is strained in song, the vocals arranged in sometimes simple, sometimes more complex; from the traditional folk-song structure of the title piece (sung in Italian and English) to the more unorthodox and abstract vocal arrangements of "Voices of Sands" (wordless, the voice as texture, mood, abstraction). There are two very short pieces, "Dancing on the Nile" and "Quiet Days In Vitro," that unfortunately seem too much like unfinished sketches, pulling the listener in to their rhythms and melodies but then leaving him cold, as if they haven't been given the time to fully explore their themes. But these weaker moments are few; on the whole the album boasts a strong collection of music. Taken as a whole, Innocenti moves from quiet and gentle music (the strains of "Lili..." are almost too sweet for these ears) to movements that are more challenging and dark, yet it remains in the realm of music that is largely accessible. The tones, gestures, songs and sentiments presented here have an appeal that approaches the universal. [Richard di Santo]



Staubgold | 23 | CD

Being so enthralled by the CD and LP versions of Vladislav Delay’s Anima last year, I simply could not resist getting my hands on this live re-working of said material. Prepared for an outdoor concert at the ARS Electronica festival in Linz, Austria, Delay here works with the sound sources that made up Anima, emphasizing certain elements while de-emphasizing others. Also added to the mix is the voice of "Girlfriend" (his? yours? mine?). Whoever she is, she randomly contributes blurbs to the proceedings: some of which are lines lifted from Delay’s Luomo project, others sound like lines from an ARS Electronica press release, and still others seem to be live reactions to the noise of the cars passing by who are interfering with the recording. Delay has taken her voice and processed it superbly through his effects boxes — so much so that without this processing, I fear the entire release could have been a disaster. At times, her voice jitters, stumbles and reverberates, while other times it is unadulterated, and allowed to stumble naturally over the lines she speaks. Perhaps she is the missing element in the effeminate original release. Perhaps she was there all along, an invisible force that propelled Delay’s project from the outset. This live reworking has given us new insight into the original recordings of Anima, and for that reason, becomes a necessary complement to them. [Vils M DiSanto]





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