Last week I wrote about the beauty and power of several noise LPs (here) and described myself as being somewhat of an aficionado of extreme and fringe musics. I do tend to gravitate to the outer edges of all music which acts like a centrifuge pushing me further into the more experimental zones of sound. This next post concerns itself with an area which is admittedly rather more obscure and is therefore much further outside most people’s sphere of experience.
The LPs I have selected below all fall into a category ultimately informed by stretching the boundaries of modern classical composition with early tape experiments, electroacoustics, primitive computers and various musique concrète techniques.
Denis Smalley – The Pulses Of Time
1981 – University Of East Anglia Recordings
Tracks from this album were recorded as far back as 1974 and so the electronic treatments are fairly primitive when compared to modern techniques which gives the whole LP a fairly unique sound. Smalley also utilised early tape recording systems to enable him to better manipulate sounds and construct various loops which would be used to unearthly effect. The final track ‘Chanson De Geste (For Amplified Voices And Instruments) features whispers and vocal intonations set against sparse percussive and instrumental interjections. The whole effect of this track in particular is incredibly eerie.
Iannis Xenakis – GRM Works 1957-1962
2013 compilation – Recollection GRM
Iannis Xenakis was a Romanian composer who worked primarily within the sphere of electroacoustic and musique concrète disciplines. He was also an advocate of the newly available computers pioneering their use in composition from as early as 1961. This rare compilation perfectly sums up various aspects of Xenakis’ early work from the sparse, electronically tinged opening three tracks before closing with a twenty two minute musique concrète piece which features a blurred cacophony of tolling bells and voices. A true and unsung pioneer of the art, now sadly no longer with us.
László Dubrovay – “A²”/Oscillations Nos. 1-3
1979 – Hungatron
This is Hungarian composer László Dubrovay’s debut LP which makes heavy use of the EMS synthesiser to modify the sound of his small supporting ensemble and also produce a sonic range of its own. This is by no means a noisy LP, just incredibly otherworldly sounding. For example, the piano used on ‘Oscillations No.3 is mainly rendered as a series of discordant, rippling tones whilst ‘Oscillations No.1 is an exercise in sustained high frequency drones. A great example of the early use of emerging synthesiser technology.
Jean Claude Eloy – Shànti
1979 – Erato
Four long sides of experimentation from French composer Eloy and I have to say that after thirty five years these tracks still manage to sound like incredible flights into the future. Eloy begins each piece by using barely audible drones which then gradually build into nebulous, pulsating oscillations with various musique concrète interludes. Face Two (none of the tracks are named individually) ends with a magnificently caustic drone after its relatively benign beginning whilst Face Four uses layers of field recordings and atonal frequencies to jar the listener out of their initial reverie. Personally I can’t help but visualise drifting in deep space being bombarded with endless streams of interplanetary radio waves when immersed in this fine record, it’s so timeless and could have easily been recorded at any point in the last forty or so years.
Ákos Rózmann – 12 Stationer VI
2012 – Ideologic Organ
I read an article about this album just prior to its release and my interest was immediately piqued for a number of reasons. Mainly, It was being issued via the Editions Mego sub label Idelogic Organ which is run by Sun O))) leader Stephen O’Malley – extreme doom metal and experimental classical composition don’t usually make the most obvious bedfellows! However, when the LP arrived a short time later I was not disappointed in the slightest. Hungarian-Swedish Rózmann (who sadly died in 2005) delivers four lengthy pieces on this double album, each track over twenty minutes in length. There’s so much sonic detail to take in here that it does require a little time and patience before an overall sense of connection begins to coalesce. It is for the large part a very otherworldly and tranquil listen until the final track Dörr Med Tårar arrives and deconstructs all the traditional instruments and voices into a cacophony of processed sound. This truly is nothing short of a stunning album but, like all of the selections featured here I can’t recommended adding it to the playlist for your next dinner party.