In these days where electronic music is generally thought of as mindless dance beats with sampled accents, it's important to remember that the pedigree of electronic music goes back many decades before "Moby", "Chemical Brothers", and even "Kraftwerk" and "Tangerine Dream". The earliest experiments came from modern composers pushing the boundaries of music, more from laboratories than studios. "Electroshock Records" seems to be in the business of reminding us of this fact. Here they present their fifth sampler (the first I've heard) of the current generation in this long tradition. Here are seven examples from a wide variety of origins all over the world, some more successful than others. Claire Laronde from France starts things off with "Vibration de la Matiere", a fascinating fourteen minute succession of abstract sounds, many from recognizable sources (piano, violin, marimba), many completely unrecognizable. Estonian Peeter Vahi's "Fugue and Hymn" is a strange combination of a processional march for brass accompanied by electronic noises. The oldest piece on the CD is from 1980, "Anatomy of Chase" by American Robin Julian Heifetz. It's an insistent workout for analog synthesizers, sort of a mutated dissonant electronic Philip Glass. Anatoly Pereslegin contributes the unusual "Model #1. A Violin and Virtual Orchestra", which presents some virtuoso violin playing backed by intense noises that sometimes resemble real instruments and sometimes just a wall of noise. My only complaint about the collection is the complete lack of liner notes. How were these works produced? Who are the musicians (if there are musicians)?
John Davis ("Expose")
A rather stronger compilation is fifth volume of "Electroshock's" Electroacoustic Music. I haven't heard the previous volumes (or anything else on this label) but to judge from the selection here there's reason to explore further. Not everything excites: Anatoly Pereslegin's piece for violin and virtual orchestra is harmonically and timbrally a little obvious; Robin Julian Heifetz's "Anatomy Of Chase" resembles nothing less than some of Keith Emerson's dissonant, jagged motives from, say, "Tarkus" or "Karn Evil 9". Fun, but a little rambling at nine minutes. "Vibration de la Matiere's" rubbed-glass harmonics, cityscape and wobbly piano construct an involved, though detached piece. In this Claire Laronde has created an equal to the best "Metamkine" mini-CD series (and that's high praise indeed from this reviewer). The stand-out has to be Dieter Moebius' 10-minute "Alte Mir". It has all the hallmarks of classic "Cluster": bursts of drum machine punctuate hobbled electronics as they stumble and surge through a grotesquerie of machinic and organic tomfoolery. Incoherent voices occasionally accompany a synthetic left-hand boogie-woogie, itself an accompaniment for a sustained, blurred guitar. Or something like that. By the far the most humorous and compelling piece here.
Chris Atton ("The Rubberneck")
This CD features a variety of music, and several of the tracks are classic in style giving a true concert hall feel, orchestra and all. The tracks by Peeter Uahi, Robin Julian Heifetz, "Karda Estra", and Anatoly Pereslegin fell into this territory, with Pereslegin's being something like a violin concerto. Claire Laronde's contribution was one of my favorites being an ethereal space journey that utilizes numerous competing singing tones and bells on the one hand, and light industrial sounds exploring more avant-garde territory on the other. A seemingly simple piece that carefully blends its arsenal of sounds and really held my attention over the 15 minute length. The great Dieter Moebius strengthens the set with the CD's only true freaky electronic space excursion. Bubbling and gurgling synths along with an assortment of interesting, if unidentifiable, sounds make this a cool spaced out freak-fest. And Christopher De Laurenti plays a full symphonic electronic piece a al Vangelis and the like.
Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")
"Volume V" brings together a set of contributors: Claire Laronde, Peeter Vahi, Robin Julian Heifetz, Anatoly Pereslegin, Dieter Moebius, "Karda Estra" and Christopher De Laurenti. The moods and sounds on this CD are the most wide-ranging of all, with Vahi's "Fugue and Hymn" mixing symphony orchestra and electronics into a piece that could be classed modern classical music. My personal preference is for the albums by Artemiy Artemiev and his father, but if you enjoy cutting edge 'electroacoustic' music then this compilation will push your preconceptions to the brink.
John Peters ("The Borderland")
Their 13th release is volume five of the Electroshock Presents series (ELCD 013). Already they have got themselves an incredible body of astounding work on the existing four volumes, and it begs the question, have they run out of originality. The simple answer, is, of course, no. This volume features work from Claire Laronde, Peeter Vahi, Robin Julian Heifetz, Anatoly Pereslegin, Dieter Moebius, "Kadra Estra" and Christopher De Laurenti. With the exception of Heifetz's work, all are relatively new, bearing the 1999 legend, whereas the aforesaid's is 1980. As expected also, the variety and challenging work of many of the composers on here is amazing. Moebius's is stunning, and "Estra's" is one that constantly develops through a musical backdrop of 365 degrees. There simply isn't enough space in the issue to rant on about how impressive this stuff is, you'll just have to take my word! Indeed, almost all the editors I know of music zines who've received these albums (and the previous) have expressed their surprise at just how good this stuff is. Of course, if you don't like anything to do with the electronic or ambient then you'd be well advised to steer clear, otherwise I really can't express how superbly different this is.
Dave W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")
The samplers of electroacoustic music of Electroshock Records display the great merit of having broken the frontier among artists of a classical education and artists formed in the culture of Rock, Pop, and other genres traditionally regarded as "little serious" by the supporters of the most retrograde of conservationisms. Fortunately, such initiatives as those developed by this label allow the audience to listen to the sound adventures by creators from all origins, and in doing so, the listener can realise that, in their different trends, all these artists follow a given common path, which is to progress with their music towards the unknown, to offer the listener new continents of sound. The contents of this CD is as follows: Claire Laronde: "Vibration de la Matiere", Peeter Vahi: "Fugue and Hymn", Robin Julian Heifetz: "Anatomy of Chase", Anatoliy Pereselegin: "Model 1 A violin & Virtual Orchestra", Dieter Moebius: "Alte Mir", Karda Estra: "Autumn Cannibalism", Christopher De Laurenti: "Let Me Tell You About Tiger"
Seven artists for this new sampler about the new breed of electroacoustic contemporary composers. And seven different kinds of music too. The artists present in this sampler are: Claire Lalonde (her "Vibration de la Matiere" is a long suite which builds a grim and artificial soundscape), Peeter Vahl (who recalls some romantic music, although revised through modern eyes and electronic interferences), Robin Julian Helfetz (the "oldest" composition, dating back to 1980, a full-blown electronic invention, made of fast quasi-random lines over a thick synth texture), Anatoliy Pereslegin (my favourite track, a sort of struggle between a neurotic violin and some electronic paintings, reminding me of the classical avant0garde of the 50's & 60's), Dieter Moebius (faithful to his tradition of cosmic music made of constant growth and menacing wait), Karda Estra (which seems to present a sinister electronic ritual) and Cristopher De Laurenti (I could call it ambient, but there's much more to it...). As are all the volumes of this project which was compiled by Artemiy Artemiev, this is very interesting, not only to find out what the avant-garde is working on, but also to enjoy as a very good musical experience.
Fa ("D.L.K. The Hell Key")
This is part five of an ongoing international electroacoustic music compilations series. It features artists from France, Estonia, USA, Russia, Germany, and Great Britain. You will hear music from: Claire Lalonde (an amazing mixture of synth/processed sounds, beautiful and mysterious at the same time), Peeter Vahi (semi-classical instrumentations, it transcends feelings of happiness and fulfillment), Robin Julian Heifetz (repetitive, processed synth lines, the dark side of the human psyche: alienation and paranoia), Anatoliy Pereslegin (an experimental, near-ambient track with melancholic undertones), Dieter Moebius (minimal electroacoustic using synth/processed sounds), Karda Estra (a mysterious, dark, foreboding multi-instrumental piece), and Christopher De Laurenti (a marvelous, peaceful, meditative blend of ambient/electroacoustic). Every song is meticulously crafted, and the end result sounds mighty impressive. I love this compilation!!! And I definitely recommend it too.
Francois Marceau ("Mastock")
The Electroshock label's use of the term "electroacoustic" is extremely wide-ranging and liberal, so much so that almost anything that involves acoustic sound manipulation, electronics or synthesizers is fair game. Volume V opens with a nice atmosphere courtesy of Claire Laronde, in a similar feel to some of her "Lumiere De L'instant" CD. The following three tracks after this, however, by: Peeter Vahi, Robin Julian Heifetz and Anatoly Pereslegin are all much too classical for me! Next to stand-out is Dieter Moebius' "Alte Mir" which is typically eccentric and one of the best things I've heard from him in recent times.
Alan Freeman ("Audion")
Released in 2000, the fifth volume in "Electroshock's" series of electroacoustic music compilations comes back to the format established before Vol. 4: a non-thematic tracklist drawing on international talent. All pieces but one were created in 1999. The exception is Robin Julian Heifetz's "Anatomy of Chase". The American composer finished this orgasmic piece of synthesized sounds in 1980. Its slightly antiquated sound signature makes it stand out a bit awkwardly, but it works well. The two highlights of the set book-end it. Claire Laronde's 15-minute "Vibration de la Matiere" proves how cruelly underrated an electroacoustician she is. Rich and full of movement, the piece literally vibrates. Christopher De Laurenti's "Let Me Tell You About Tiger" is mellower, somewhat more ambient than his usual biting self, but it brings the CD to a highly enjoyable end. Between the two we find a couple of surprising tracks and a few forgettable numbers. The English group "Karda Estra" delivers the shortest piece at four minutes and the oddest-sounding in the context of this album: acoustic guitars, female voice, and a Gothic progressive rock feel are not things you expect to hear on a compilation like this one - sounds to me like producer Artemiy Artemiev obeyed his heart more than logic to include it. Truth be told, it brings an interesting change and it is a good piece. Anatoly Pereslegin's "Model #1", featuring an uncredited violinist accompanied by a "virtual orchestra", also deserves mention. This series' open-mindedness and willingness to stretch the definition of the genre it is supposed to illustrate are refreshing.
Francois Couture ("All-Music Guide")
A disclaimer that I always put with compilation/sampler recordings is that regardless of how sublime the tracks, you can't rate them up with a single artists recordings. After all, they are designed to introduce you to various artist's work, not be a cohesive recording. That said, I picked up this sampler and was immediately grabbed by a couple of names, Dieter Moebius and Karda Estra, that I know and respect. The next thing to catch my eye was that these seven artists were scattered over the globe with representatives from France, Russia, the U.K., Germany, Estonia, and the U.S. Quite an interesting collection on a number of levels. Not surprisingly then, there's something for everyone on the disc, though it's unlikely that every style will suit every listener. The disc starts with a long ambient/experimental sounding work, then jumps right into something with a more contemporary symphonic sound. The recording continues to shift and alter between these genres with occasional surprises thrown in. It's all very serious compositionally, I'll give it that. My favourite tracks turned out to be the pair of artists that I had recognised right off. This could be, of course, because I have some familiarity with their work. I certainly would not say that there were no other highlights, of course. Christopher De Laurenti, for example, though new to me delivered quite a nice ending track that grabs your attention. All in all, this collection delivers a diverse electroacoustic sampling which introduces the listener to a number of styles and artists.
Loren Beacon ("Electronic Shadows")