Electroshock Records: Review:  
Roderik De Man: "Electrified Music" (Electroshock Records 2004, ELCD 040)

08 tracks. Total time - 72:34.

In this album, Roderik de Man explores areas near to "new music", and to electroacoustic music. The CD gathers eight experimental works. Starting from a mainly acoustic instrumental approach, the structure of the music is based on complex architectures.

Valeriano Guiol ("Amazing Sounds")

Roderik de Man's music combines the plasticity of academic electroacoustics with the frustrating complexity of contemporary classical music. Most of the works on "Electrified Music" are mixed, i.e. for musician and tape. They reveal a composer possessing a sharp ear for contrasts, a solid sense of sound movement, a taste for fractured melodies strongly reminiscent of Stravinsky's, and a certain mannerism - which can be a strength or a weakness, depending on the work. It certainly is a strength in "Entanglements", a piece for recorders and tape. Jorge Isaac delivers a breath-taking performance: the score consists of three recorder parts, all very difficult. Yet Isaac manages to put a lot of feeling in his playing, verging on exarcebation. "Sin Descanso", also composed for Isaac, provides another highlight. "Chordis Canam", for harpsichord and tape, is one of two pieces featuring harpsichordist Annelie de Man. The work is considerably more playful than the other pieces on the disc, something achieved without sacrificing on density. It constitutes an excellent example of a mixed electroacoustic work where all sounds used in the tape part have been derived from the instrument it "duets" with. But the stand-out piece is definitely "Czar Peter's Creation", for tenor (Marcel Beekman) and tape. Based on a few strophes from a poem by famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin (an ode to St. Petersburg), the piece irradiates with a stark grandeur dominated by Beekman's soaring voice. De Man's music is not widely circulated, even within electroacoustic circles, so this CD offers a suitable (and satisfying) introduction to his work.

Francois Couture ("All-Music Guide")

Roderik De Man's "Electrified Music" demands your whole attention from the every beginning not only for the energetic color and timbre from each peculiar instrument , but its overwhelming power to represent, to picture "The Mother Nature" as a source of mysticism. In a certain way it's like a drowse "safari" through a thick , damp, half-lighted jungle where listener may find, face & stare stuff like simblic tigers and exotic songbirds bursting into scene in a soft way ("Sin Descanso"). The eye of the beholder (the ear in this case) tends to accustom gradually to an organically consecutive "trailer" of strokes which importance operates not even on a subtle level of primal allegory ("Dark Intervals"), but a tacit, breathtaking maze of atonal surprises, built as a figurative amusement scheme ("Air to Air", "Momentum"). Mr. De Man creates what I'd call a sort of "Multi-Purpose Harmonic Carousels" where sometimes 2 or 3 instruments seem to fight against each other as if it were a simulated battle... to the extreme. Some tracks sound like a giant wasp nest shaken by a curious child. "C'zar Peter Creation" is a chapter apart.. What it seemingly appears as a spooky dirge, finally becomes a glorious homage to beloved Peter The Great and the magnificent city of St. Petersburg. The inner strength of Marcel Beekmann's voice leads the electronic components as a wise shepperd throughout all this "aural jungle", like a sweet mermaid surrounded by eerie but endearing fogs.

Rene Atilio Araya ("Extraco Revoltijo")

"Electrified Music" (ELCD040) by Roderik De Man has the unique feature of using a variety of conventional acoustic instruments throughout its eight tracks - but they are treated and altered to suit the composer/musicians' vision. The opening track "Sin Descanso" has a percussive, pulsing, feel to it even though only blockflutes and tape are used. "Dark Intervals" was created for tape and has that timeless feel to it as sounds seem to hang in the air motionless. "Air To Air" features a variety of brass, woodwind and tape collages, and has a sort of 50's classical modernism feel to it. The rest of the tracks on this album follow similar paths, a variety of conventional instruments used in classical music are mutated into new sounds and textures. Much of the music here has been commissioned for dance troupes or art installations, and should be of interest to anyone who follow the avant-garde in Art.

John Peters ("The Borderland")

I'm ignorant about contemporary music but the approach to this composer wasn't that difficult. His music isn't based on theory only (as far as I can understand) but could be listened without any musical conception also. The eight movements are commissioned recordings that goes from 1989 to 2003. Each one has got particular sounds and structure and during the listening I was amazed. This is the real experimental music that gives to the listener emotions and each track is a surprise with moments of musical anarchy along with particular structures. The instruments used for these tracks are: blockflutes, tapes, flute piccolo, bassethorn, trumpet, harpsichord and bassclarinet.

Maurizio Pustianaz ("Chain DLK")

Roderik De Man is a contemporary composer perfectly representative of his generation - he was born in 1941 - who was influenced by serialism and musique concrete. His pieces blends live musicians performances, either playing notated scores or improvising, and electronic sound material using all the techniques and processes available for tape compositions. What makes his music interesting is the interplay between these basically antagonistic ways of producing music. The first piece "Sin Descanso" ("Without Rest") for block flutes and tape, is in some ways evocative Takemitsu film soundtrack (which is not really surprising: Roderik De Man is a Dutch composer born in Bandung Indonesia). The opposition/merging of the live flute (folk elements) sounds and the sampled sounds are particularly well done and convincing musically. Although "Dark Intervals" and "Wait a Minute" are two tape compositions they could not be more dissimilar: the first piece is a dark brooding meditation with quite disturbing undertones; on the contrary, "Wait a Minute" certainly shows a lighter face of electronica. Here we have glimpses of a charming toy world full of talking robots, arcade games voices and fizzy noises. For "Air to Air" for Flute / Piccolo, Basset Horn, Trumpet / Picc. trumpet + Tape and "Chordis Canam" for Harpsichord + Tape, Roderick De Man uses the same techniques. The instruments played in these pieces are also sampled to create new sounds and thus expand their possibilities. In fact for the composer the tape part works as an extra musician. Even if these samples are heavily processed they are still related to the original instrument. In doing so, the composer manages to create, in terms of sound colors, a sense of continuity between traditional acoustic instruments and electronic material. "Entanglement" for Recorders and tape goes one step further. Two recorder parts were recorded before hand by the performer who plays the third part on top. This works beautifully. The different lines blend particularly well and create strange and amazing textures. For me this is outstanding piece of the album, at times meditative, playful and even mischievous.

Daniel Biry ("London Cinematic Composers")

Roderik de Man's music is related to "musique concrete", the sounds in the tape parts are mostly derived from the same acoustic instruments which are combined with the tape. In this fashion sampled recorder sounds and a beat on a small drum were used in "Sin Descanso", and in the beautiful "Czar Peter's Creation" the sounds on tape were created by extensive manipulations of voice samples taken from the tenor Marcel Beekman. The equally humorous as short "Wait a Minute" uses a German speaking stopwatch as basis. With his material Roderik de Man creates intriguing soundscapes which create dialogues and conflicts in a classical way. This generates exceptionally exciting works, especially where the harpsichord plays a role as in "Chordis Canam" and "Momentum".

Paul Janssen ("Mens en Melodie")

Dutch academic and composer Roderik de Man's new CD on the "Electroshock Records" label is a collection of works recorded between 1988-2003. Most of the music was commissioned by various organizations and most combine instrumentation with tapes and electronics. Commissioned by the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts in 2002, "Sin Descanso" (without rest) combines blockflutes and tape samples to create a dramatic, multi-movement piece. The flutes are the lead instruments - wailing, fluttering and singing - backed by rising and falling ambient waves and thundering percussives, producing a theatrical orchestrated feel. "Dark Intervals" is a more purely electro-acoustic work composed in 2003 for a choreography by Sanna Myllylahti. The music consists of winding and pulsating soundscape textures, howling tonal colorations, percussion, voice and miscellaneous sounds that add variety and character to the piece. Once again there is a sense of dramatic urgency, which combined with the excellent sound and production makes this a challenging but relatively accessible avant-garde theater work. Composed in 1989 at the request of the European Wind Ensemble, "Air to Air" enlists flute, piccolo, bassethorn and trumpet, along with de Man's tapes which employ samples from the participating instruments. The result is a high intensity chamber ensemble theater piece, given a jolt into the experimental world by the tape work. "Chordis Canam" combines harpsichord and tapes, the harpsichord's unavoidable Baroque sound making this one of the more unusual and intriguing tracks of the set. Harpsichord and tape team up again for "Momentum", this time with the addition of bassclarinet, to create more of the albums more melodrama fueled moments. "Entanglements" combines recorders and tapes and is like a less dramatic and more whimsical version of "Sin Descanso". At little more than a minute in length, "Wait a Minute" drags the listener through a brief roller coaster video game ride. And finally, composed for tenor and tapes, "Czar Peter's Creation" is based on Alexander Pushkin's poem "The Bronze Rider". Intense ambient soundscapes and ethereal orchestrations make for a fascinating avant-garde symphony backing the vocals and narration. In summary, passionate compositions, electrifying performances and creative pairing of electronics and instrumentation make "Electrified Music" one of my favorites among the current batch of "Electroshock Records" releases.

Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")

A highly esteemed electro-classical composer, Dutchman Roderik De Man gives us a fine collection of commissioned works ranging from exotic to the downright alien. While the majority of his source material is orchestral/classical in nature, his tape manipulations and electronic processings make both utterly transparent and shockingly outspoken appearances throughout the songs. (The included photo of De Man in front of his many racks of obscure electronics further cements his status as an academic O.G.) The first piece is akin to an electroacoustic soundtrack to Martin Sheen's riverboat journey in "Apocalypse Now" - small hand-drums, block-flutes, and metallic clanks surge and recede like a river to the center of a green Hell. "Chordis Canam" is a wildly unstable duet between harpsichord and tape, where the harpsichord attempts to come to terms with its twisted reflection in a Baroque funhouse mirror, only to crash upon itself in shards of string and broken glass. Recorders meet the same fate in "Entanglements", fluttering like drunken finches, flapping wildly, paranoid and ill. "Wait a Minute" is perhaps the ultimate distillation of De Man's profound skills, a minute-ling "cartoon in sound" as he calls it, using only a German talking stopwatch and tape to create a stuttering, squealing, compression of sounds one would expect only to find in a Japanese arcade. The exact process behind these recordings is obscure, almost alchemic, transmuting the sample-bearing tape into a beautifully dissonant mockery of its subject matter. Although basic liner notes are included with the disc, further explanations behind the weird magic would be very welcome.

John H. DeGroot ("Grooves")

Who would have guessed that behind such unpretentious title as this one hides maybe the richest "minimal" music I've ever heard. Yes, this is such stunning music. This man is a true genius when he can create such intense, shrill compositions with for example only recorders and tape, or just tape. Further on piccolo, Bassethorn, trumpet and more leave their definite mark in other tracks. It'[s all eerie, haunting, breathtaking, full of twists and wayward in its own character. And although when you look at the listing of the instruments, you don't see a synthesizer, still there's plenty of atmosphere what you can call electronic and it's only thanks too the sound manipulative methods of de Man that it's more hidden in the cluster of treated sound. The last track deserves a special mention. In this track a Dutch tenor sings a poem about Czar Peter The Great. This is razor-sharp sensing of light and dark. This music was written for ballet, art festivals and the like between 1998 and 2003. For me, this is the best release from this Moscow based company I've ever heard so far.

Roel Stevernik ("Expose")


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