Back, not so much with a vengeance as a new mixtape; the theme this time is simply electronics. Many of the pieces are rather long, so this mix, more than the others, features excerpts rather than complete works.
The mix opens with one of the most exciting electronic works by the duo FURT. Taking Brahms as its starting point, “Rigor” immediately slows, seemingly descending closer and closer upon its surface, the ensuing music seemingly scrutinising the Brahms material at the microscopic level. i was fortunate enough to witness this piece performed live (at the ICA, back in the mid ’90s), and it was thrilling, a truly memorable experience. The complete work can be downloaded free from FURT’s website; link below. “fol4” is Autechre‘s expanded version of “Fol3”, found on the limited double edition of Quaristice. It’s just as mercurial as its sibling, darting between the speakers with nervous, frenetic energy, from which assorted rhythmic patterns obtrude. A brief interruption comes in the form of Alva Noto’s “fontlab4.0”, one of his assorted miniature slews of (presumably) raw data from his superb album Unitxt. i’ve been interested in Ambrose Field‘s work since i heard him give a talk at Birmingham University about 15 years ago; he has a unique and fascinating approach both to sound itself as well as to its relationship to the listener. Included here is an episode from his splendid electroacoustic work Expanse Hotel, “Orient Express”. Next a work taken from an ancient off-air radio recording lurking in my archives, a work titled “Augustine’s Message” by the Welsh composer Robert Mackay. i’ve not heard anything else by Mackay, and sadly this piece doesn’t appear to be available on any releases, but i’ve been able to clean up the recording very well, and it nicely demonstrates the composer’s joint interest in music and drama. Despite its brevity, “Augustine’s Message” is an intense, beguiling listen. Then a lengthy excerpt from one of my very favourite composers, Roland Kayn. Kayn’s electronic works are nothing short of amazing, spanning vast durations with equally vast slabs of sound, slabs that are constantly re-shaping themselves. To my knowledge, few of Kayn’s works have been reissued on CD (the main exception being Tektra), but most of his vinyl releases can be found in high quality rips on the web (particularly here). Included here is a portion from the first part of his 1979 cycle Infra, “Isotrope”. Also conceived on a large scale is Pan Sonic‘s album Kesto (234.48:4), encapsulated in its 61-minute final track, “Säteily (Radiation)”. The excerpt here demonstrates the track’s beautifully radiant, shining character.
Christopher Best was my first ever composition teacher, after i left school. He introduced me to electronic music, and his own piece, “From Steel To Stone” was an early favourite, and remains so; the abrupt entrance of the grinding noises a minute or two in is always a breathtaking moment. A portion from my own new work Triptych, May/July 2009 follows, a passage from the final part, “Vestige”, filled with distant, flute-like sounds. The piece comes out on CD in around a week’s time; to order a copy, go here. Something of a successor to Roland Kayn, in terms of both scale and style, is the electronic music by The Hafler Trio. Heard here is the opening from one of h3o’s works created to accompany the Fovea Hex Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent trilogy, titled “The Discussion”. Like Kayn’s work, the rich opening chord slowly dissipates and crumbles into more convoluted textures, ever drone-like, ever shifting and changing; few people can create such effective paradoxes of stasis and movement than Andrew M. McKenzie (heard best in the wonderful Trilogy in Three Parts). Christopher McFall works with field recordings, folding them into new constructions that tease the listener, at times openly giving away their sources, elsewhere being more abstract. “A Little Rouge” is an inscrutable track, filled with lowercase tics and skitterings that disguise their origins effectively; whether real or entirely synthetic is impossible to know. Hecq may seem an unusual choice for this selection, but his work—which i absolutely adore—has much more to do with the expressionism of electronic music than may seem at first to be the case. i’ve seen him grouped among the ‘IDM’ crowd, but this simplification fails to take into account most of his output, which flits between sharply hard-edged material and some of the most beautiful ambient music ever made. Si Begg‘s excellent remix of Hecq’s “Steeltongued” is all hard edges, the tracks percussion placed into regular structures from which they constantly escape. Karlheinz Essl is another eclectic composer, a maverick and something of a visionary in his use of electronics. “Carl Mayer Scenar(t)ist – Berlin” finds him in relatively restrained mode, exploring a tapestry made up of flutters and whirrs interspersed with drawn-out metallic tones. Restraint is, i suspect, a word unknown to Merzbow, whose fascinating ongoing series of albums pertaining to Japanese birds are nonetheless laden with the kinds of sonic onslaught for which he is best known (and does better than anyone). But there’s so much more going on his noisescapes; maybe not delicacy as such, but certainly intricacy, and the splendidly-titled “Fandangos in Space” is a brilliant example; music is rarely richer than this.
Returning in Merzbow’s wake, FURT’s “Gute Nacht” seems almost tame, the two halves of typically nightmarish collage separated by a short exclamation from über-vocalist Ute Wassermann. Franz Schubert is the underlying presence here, fragments of whom are heard most clearly in the latter half. Thereafter, a lengthy excerpt from one of my favourite electronic works, Adrian Moore‘s large-scale “Requiem”, a work that weaves all kinds of sacred quotations and references into its athletic but sombre texture. The complete work (that lasts nearly half an hour) can be downloaded free; sadly there’s no lossless format (a piece like this is crying out for it) but the mp3 is at least vbr; again, link below. Whereas most listeners, it seems, loved Benge‘s tribute to a generation of synthesizers Twenty Systems, i found it for the most part a great idea unimaginatively executed. Here, though, is one of the best tracks, made on the lovely “1972 Serge Modular”; now why wasn’t something like this made in the 1970s? To finish, back to Hecq, and a pair of tracks from his 2007 album 0000, demonstrating his dual interest i described above; together they display the Hecq signature (which was a particular feature of this year’s astonishing Steeltongued): harsh, dirty noise placed above (and often yielding to) luscious ambient chord sequences. “0015” is all convolution, heavy and industrial, but after just a short time the makings of its ambient destination can be descried all around; “0016” is wide and beatific, its simple chords rapturous and utterly lovely. As this reaches its own conclusion, i’ve laid over it two more of Alva Noto’s raw data tracks from Unitxt, “word” on the left, “excel” on the right, bringing the mix to its end.
The sonic mayhem lasts a little over 93 minutes — here’s the tracklisting in full:
• FURT – Rigor [excerpt] (free download here)
• Autechre – fol4 [excerpt] (from Quaristice (Versions))
• Alva Noto – fontlab4.0 (from Unitxt)
• Ambrose Field – Expanse Hotel: Orient Express (from CDCM Computer Music Series Volume 32)
• Robert Mackay – Augustine’s Message (unavailable; off-air recording)
• Roland Kayn – Isotrope (1. Teil) [excerpt] (from Infra)
• Pan Sonic – Säteily (Radiation) [excerpt] (from Kesto (234.48:4))
• Christopher Best – From Steel To Stone [excerpt] (unavailable; more info here)
• Simon Cummings – Vestige [excerpt] (from Triptych, May/July 2009)
• The Hafler Trio – The Discussion [excerpt] (from Fovea Hex – Huge)
• Christopher McFall – A Little Rouge [excerpt] (from A Little Rouge; free download here)
• Hecq – Steeltongued (Si Begg Remix) (from Steeltongued)
• Karlheinz Essl – Carl Mayer Scenar(t)ist – Berlin (from SNDT®X; free download here)
• Merzbow – Fandangos In Space [excerpt] (from Suzume: 13 Japanese Birds Pt. 1)
• FURT – Gute Nacht (from Defekt)
• Adrian Moore – Requiem [excerpt] (free download here)
• Benge – 1972 Serge Modular (from Twenty Systems)
• Hecq – 0015 and 0016 (from 0000)
• Alva Noto – word [left channel] and excel [right channel] (from Unitxt)