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.
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 (www.sonicartsnetwork.org),
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).
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.
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
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?
'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.
'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.
'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.
'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.
'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
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.
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.