I will preface this review by stating that my comments will be limited to those works which touched me in one way or the other. Note that though I refer only to 8 pieces, there are 19 in total on this compilation.

I'm always a sucker for a beautiful cd jacket. Maybe the fact that I first studied it while standing on a dirt road, facing a river, surrounded by grass and weeds resembling those of the cover art, increased my expectations: I was ready for a trip. I was a little upset that there was only a minimal amount of information on the works and the artists (composer, title, duration). Nothing about the concept (though I suppose the title gives a good indication), how/why these composers were chosen, program notes, etc. I now know that one can find out more by going to the Shop section of the SAN website (, although the amount of information varies from one artist to the next; some composers have bios, some programs, others are very secretive. In a now familiar concept, the compilation features works with a duration of less than 3 minutes (electro-clips).

This first listening session was soon after my trip to Linz for the Ars Electronica 2001 Jury. After hearing more than 300 works in 5 days, I was feeling more than a little blasé. In fact, I was downright mean: "Not that Soundhack/Cloud generator sound again?!!"; "Oh give that reverb a break!"; "How about some m-u-s-i-c now!!, etc. Soon enough though (and after repeated listening sessions), more than a few pieces managed to pierce my jaded armour.

Michael Edward Bolton's 'Remote' is very much in-your-face music. He makes excellent use of distortion and panning to create an uncomfortable yet engaging environment. I also appreciated his good sense of proportion, as the piece is just the right length.

Peter Cusack and Charles Hayward's 'Depford Grid Sub Station' features an enchanting juxtaposition of elements: electrical sounds/drone with the Thames river. During the piece, a man describes the surroundings and shares his discovery of what he calls a "secret place". Of course, we don't have to believe him that this soundscape even exists, as one can combine any sound in the studio. This brings up the question: is anything 'real' when it comes to soundscape recordings/mixes played back on speakers?

Ian Helliwell's 'New York NY' is a frivolous voyage through time using jazz and film-noirish clips. I would almost call this B-movie electroacoustics. The overall mix could be more dynamic, and the ending is bit abrupt, but it's still quite a bit of fun to listen to, and it has the 'rushed' quality of a fast improvisation.

Ambrose Field's 'Refried Beans' features finely crafted sounds, a good sense of cinematic drama, and a skilled marriage of abstract and recognizable sounds. Excellent textures, recurring elements, and a dash of humour (mariachi band and party!) make this track stand out.

John Kefala-Kerr's 'Miracle' is another gem. A young boy's voice brings to mind Gesang, but that reference quickly melts into a smorgasborg of church organ, computer keyboard and techno rhythm samples. I won't pretend that I'm not partial to Pop references and humour, so I had to single out this work! Miracle has a zapping quality to it which reminds me of Marc Tremblay's early work. Very effective.

Paul Spreckley's 'Berlin Potsdamer Platz' is a bizarre kind of electro-jazz fusion. I found it quite short, but it did capture my interest. Fortunately his program notes on SAN's site are quite long, and the story of how he made the sounds is rich, making up somehow for the brevity of the work.

James Welburn's 'Dom' made me sigh with nostalgia. Of course, it helps that I've been to the Dome (Cologne) a few times. The only hitch is that this Dom is in Lubeck, not Cologne. Oh, well, it still took me back in time. It's such a joy to listen to Gothic reverberation! This is an excellent example of the miniature form. Mysterious enough to make me want to return to the Dom again. A true sonic postcard.

The last work on the compilation, Francesco Giomi's 'Anewmenu', sounds like a hidden-microphone documentary on what really goes on in the kitchen of an Italian restaurant. Full of well-recorded sounds of cutlery, dishes, glasses, and the like, this piece also features the voice of the author whispering excerpts from a menu. It's the first electroacoustic piece that's given me an appetite.

If it sounds like I'm biased towards pieces that combine acoustic and electronic sounds, well... I am. I find that the union of the acoustic and the synthetic worlds generates the most adventurous, unpredictable, and refreshing terrain of all. As well, I'm a sucker for pieces that sound like they're telling me a story, or better yet, making me want to invent a story while I'm listening.

The reference code for this cd is SANCD01, which leads me to believe that this is the first compilation for SAN. If this is indeed the case, then it's a great start, as it introduces us to some new blood in the form of talented composers. The quality of the selections is uneven, but then again, I've rarely been satisfied with compilations. I'm certain that other listeners will enjoy some of the pieces that I've left out.



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