Electroshock Records: Review:  
(Electroshock Records ELCD 004/005 CD)
ELCD 004 - 10 tracks. Total time - 73:06
ELCD 005 - 09 tracks. Total time - 77:20.

Interestingly enough, this excellent - what should be a 2CD set, is packaged as two separate discs with almost identical covers. Only the careful eye will note the small red "Disc One" or "Disc Two" on the back cover and the different track listing. That said, this is for the most part some pretty wild stuff, like something "O.O.Discs" might release: two discs (of roughly 75 minutes each) of experimental electroacoustic music by a number of different Russian composers. The proceedings kick off with three tracks by Taras Bujevsky who, using strings, woodwinds and found/taped-sounds achieves an almost "Art Zoyd" like atmosphere. Vladamir Komarov explores the next two, with a heavier reliance on tapes, samples, voices and electronics. Next is "Life In The Outside", a 21 minute four-part piece by Artem Vasiliev whose title pretty much says it all: twisted sampled percussion, tape manipulation, filtered acoustic sound effects and electronics. Way out there. Andrew Rodinov closes disc one (and disc two as well) with a shorter piece for programmed percussive samples and ambient electronics. Disc two starts with two pieces by Vladamir Nikolayev - one pretty much for solo violin that eventually gets consumed by electronics and sampled sounds, the other a collage constructed of hundreds of samples of voices laughing, yet put together in such a way that it's completely rhythmic and musical. On disc two one will find compositions by both Edward Artemiev (father) and Artemiy Artemiev (son). One may recall we covered Artemiy's first three releases in issue #14; his offerings here follow in a similar vein: cinematic ambient visions that ebb and flow in a dreamlike state of flux, combining electronics, acoustics and judiciously applied samples. Edward's offerings are more based in acoustic instrumentation, punctuated with sampled effects, extremely dark and sinister like a soundtrack to your worst nightmare. Stanislav Kreitchi offers his avant-percussive "Music for Wood and Metal", and the ten minute, three part "Tryptich - Ocean", delving deeper into the realm of samples and aggressive electronics. There's a lot here to be sure, and some of it is not all that easy to listen to, but intrepid sonic explorers should find plenty here within to spark the imagination.

Peter Thelen ("Expose")

"Volume I. Disc One" (ELCD 004) features the work of Taras Bujevsky, Vladimir Komarov, Artem Vasillev and Andrew Rodionov. The album kicks off with the superb "Vox Unius" by Taras Bujevski. At just under eight minutes it builds steadily up into an underwater sojourn, with the synth sounding like one of those old fifties movies (the Theremin, I think). It's a very mournful piece indeed. Taras then gives us "Awakening". A colourful and rich mix of styles, with samples of orchestras, voices, and keyboards combining to produce a underlying feel, or threat that something is awakening, and whatever it is, it ain't nice! Track three, the last one by Bujevski, is called "Ciao Antonio". This piece is more electronic, where white noise begins (sounding like wind). Again vocal samples and rushing synths interweave throughout to produce a very chaotic experience. It especially comes into its own when the dance beat starts. That in itself makes this a very different track to the majority - a real better. Komarov now takes the wheel with "Computer Kaleidoscope" and "Cherish Hopes". These two are perhaps the most intense on the album with regard to the styles and sounds incorporated into the overall structure. As you may well imagine by the track's initial title, there is a lot of colour and shapes to be found here. The oddest thing is that "Cherish Hopes" is a lousy title for such a imaginative piece. Whilst the opener only lasts 40 seconds, it's best thinking of the two tracks as one (it Just seems to work better). Artem Vasillev now kicks up a storm with "Life In The Outside" - a four-section piece that opens with "Dream". Chimes go totally out of control, effecting a dreamlike sound that builds and chops out at the last moment (probably before insanity kicks in). "Landscape" then takes over. We then go into "Game", and finish with "Hymn". To be fair, it's wrong to take any of the tracks out of sequence, because as a whole they work so well, complementing the overall effect, of which is, literally, one hell of a journey. The final track is by Andrew Rodionov. A synth starts with a sequence of creaking/popping sounds repeating as swirling and ambient type sounds close in. As the original synth disappears we're left with a very soothing and relaxing ambient track. The piece is called "Laboratory 8", and it might sound corny, but with the various ' sounds' that come through as the ambience swirls (such as bubbling) gives you the impression of a camera panning around a lab. Cracking set of pieces. Disc Two (ELCD 005), contains the work of Vladimir Nikolayev, Artemiy Atremiev, Slanistav Kreitchi, Edward Artemiev, and Andrew Rodionov (again!). The album kicks off with perhaps the oddest track. "Antique Landscape", by Nikolayev. It starts with a stringed instrument, a cello perhaps?, trilling, playing a set pattern for a few minutes until a flanged sound begins to wrap itself around the back of the speakers. After around five minutes, the whole thing explodes, combining synth and cello. There are times when I was reminded of "The Residents"! Different, I'll say that. The second track is called "Laughtrack", again by Nikolayev. Basically, that's all the track is. It's layered loops of people laughing. I must admit that at times I laughed myself as some of the laughter is very contagious. Around half way through, though, a reversed loop kicks in, and that gives the track a very sinister edge. Spooky! Track 3 is Artemiy Artemiev's classic "Space Distortion". At only just under five and a half minutes, it's a track that is, literally, a beautiful piece of realised imagination. I can see why this was played at the Bourges Festival of Electroacoustic Music in France in '97. It slowly builds with the use of really heavy industrial styled synth - you can actually feel, hear and see the quasars collapsing! Reality twisting... We then get his second offering. "Evening in the Country". This is as different as you could imagine. More like "Tangerine Dream's" more structured work, it starts with rain, and whilst I must adroit that I couldn't visualise too much of the country I found the music excellent. Quite a sombre and yet powerful piece. Music "For Wood and Metal" is the next work, by Kreitchi. It's a very, very avant-garde piece, reminding me of Stockhausen in places. It's literally a piece containing different structures of percussion on bits of wood and metal, with the odd effect being used. "Triptych Ocean" is his next offering. This is split into 3 pieces, each one is two movements, so basically there's 'six' pieces. A lot of the music on here, especially the opener, was uncannily like the music from the old fifties film. "Lost In Space", old-style electronic effects run through echo chambers -actually quite good. You could actually imagine the slow-time of underwater movement. Rhythmic percussion and attacks of random synth makes this piece quite an aural experience. Artemiy Atremiev's Father takes the helm now with "I Would Like to Return". This is dark, moody and atmospheric piece containing deep rumbling synths with the odd sample weaving through the textures. It reminded me of something along the lines of Zappa, circa Jonestown. Superbly evocative and one of the strongest on the album. "Summer" starts with the sound of a storm; rain and thunder (nothing new there, then - typical English summer, if not a Russian one!). Again, a very strong and atmospheric track that evokes many images. The final contributor on this album is Andrew Rodionov, with "OsciD". Percussion and drum samples kick off with water and vocal samples strategically placed over the beat/offbeat. Initially you're thinking it's a very simple track, which indeed, it is. However, it's a very hypnotic piece, especially when the keyboard starts. To hear something that's totally unexpected, especially from a place you'd least expect, then you can't go no further than getting hold of this cracking double volume. I thoroughly recommend it.

Dave W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")

This double CD assembles the biggest names in the Russian Association for Electroacoustic Music: Edward and Artemiy Artemiev, Taras Bujevski, Vladimir Komarov, Artem Vasiliev, Andrew Rodionov, Vladimir Nikolayev and Stanislav Kreitchi. The music varies a lot, from classical soundtrack music with distinctly Russian flair to progressive rock (!) and completely abstract electronic experiments with dark and cosmic atmospheres, all pretty impressive. This over 2.5 hours long double CD gives a unique insight into a local scene of alternative and experimental music and should be in the collection of anybody even vaguely interested in the history of European electronic music in the 20th century. An impressive and very entertaining release with cultural and historic connotations.

Marc Mushroom ("Crohinga Well")

To distance you as far as possible from the idea that these compilations contain melodic, instantly accessible synthesiser music, "Electroacoustic Music Vol. 1" opens with a lengthy exercise in violin-scraping from Russian avant-gardist Vladimir Nikolayev. Once the scraping's over, the processing can begin - the basic sounds are pitch shifted downwards, echoed, reversed and modulated. This goes on for some 13 minutes, which is pretty trying, but the follower "Laughtrack", although shorter, is even less musical in a sense, comprising tapes of human laughter subjected to the same type of processing techniques. Artemiy Artemyev's following "Space Distortion" and "Evening in the Country" are relatively speaking much more accessible - great wodges of dark ambient sound under sudden clattering machine noises, somewhat reminiscent of recent Steve Roach or Vidna Obmana, then gentle chiming melodies over persistent rain and thunder noises; while Stanislav Kreitchi's "Music For Wood and Metal" is more experimental again, the title describing exactly what you get in the track. Kreitchi has another long piece here, "Triptych Ocean", which again is Roach-like, featuring sea and slow digital synth noises. Edward Artemiev's "I Would Like To Return" again features deep, droning digital synth sounds, while his "Summer" is extremely gentle, having shades of Debussy played on wood flute and voices under more rain noises. The closer, Andrew Rodionov's "OcsID", gets back to experimentalism, mixing samples from timpanis, human voices and what can only be described as toilet sounds, with some blatantly obvious vocal samples from Kraftwerk's "Electric Cafe" - a very odd combination indeed. You may conclude that this album has something to put off almost every kind of listener - synth fans will dislike the extreme experimentalism, while academics will probably have very little time for the new age lyricism and Kraftwerk noises. If you thought that was the case on Volume I, you should have a go instead at Volume II of "Electroshock Presents: Electroacoustic Music"... Electroshock's mastermind Artemiy Artemiev has produced some excellent music of his own, ranging from accessible, symphonic synth music to much more experimental styles, and has obviously put heart and soul into these projects. They're definitely for the more sonically adventurous, and if they can be criticised, it could only be for being basically too wide-ranging, to the extent of putting off most imaginable groups of listeners with one track or another.

Mark Jenkins ("Sequences")

Artemiy Artemiev and his Moscow label Electroshock are doing a great deal to promote the diffusion of electroacoustic music, and not only of Russian origin, which we shall see in coming reviews. On this, the first compilation in a series of releases devoted to the presentation of electroacoustic music, the content is exclusively Russian, though. This should be of great interest, since Russian electroacoustics are largely unknown outside Russia. The only drawback here is the small number in which these CDs are being printed; just 500 copies each. The risk is great that they're already sold out. The first of the two CDs of Volume I starts with a set of three pieces by Taras Bujevski: "Vox Unius", "Awakening" and "Ciao Antonio". At first the beginning piece seems to apply solely concrete methods, but soon enough emerges sounds that make you wonder if Bujevski has used an old Theremin or some other early electronic instrument. Soon enough concrete sounds and Theremin-like whistles blend in with more customary electroacoustic sounds, and then even pure electronics sweep in, later joined by more populistic synthesizer sonics. The second, very brief event, starts off with a big wet Russian fart, commencing with a sleeping and snoring composer, who dreams of old 1920's piano music, and wakes, it appears, falling out of bed.... The third of Bujevski's pieces - "Ciao Antonio" - is longer, almost seventeen minutes - and begins with violins or violas and other orchestral sounds that at first sound like a rehearsal or an orchestra which tunes all their instruments in a big tuning tutti! At some instances a lone harpsichord fills the stage with frail tones, and this is, in fact, as much a modern chamber piece as an electroacoustical work. Some humorous vocals are included too. When towards the end some popular music takes over, it only goes to show that Bujevski isn't a stranger to any genre, and that he is a sampling man! Next two pieces - numbers four and five - are works by Vladimir Komarov. The first one is called "Computer Kaleidoscope", and rocks on pretty heavy, in a versatile mixture of influences; a wild merger of Asian, American and Russian sonics, flashing by in sweeping and jolting sound clips, a little bewildering, to make an understatement. It is obvious that the composer has enjoyed the process of sampling and manipulation. Further into the piece, when he uses vocal sounds, he reminds me of Luciano Berio, Lars-Gunnar Bodin or Kaija Saariaho. His next tune is "Cherish Hopes". The beginning is ominous, dangerous, with fast events in the foreground, layered on top of a background with slow-motion dangers approaching, receding, reappearing... In this piece, like in one of Bujevski's before, the more "populistic" synthesizer sounds appear here and there. In this he takes on the mood of Swedish electronic pioneer and later New Age hero Ralph Lundsten, whom I appreciated very much in his early stages, but whom I could not follow into the New Age blandness. Tracks six to nine on CD I belong to Artem Vasilliev: "Dream", "Landscape", "Game", "Hymn". Vasilliev's section begins with olden sounds, like noise bands from a tone generator, joined by metallic frailnesses, with something in common with early compositions by Arne Nordheim (which he composed in Poland), but the frail metals soon transpose to mallet-like beatings, even leaning towards gamelan music. I like the way Vasilliev treats his sounding objects. He seems to be the most innovative and imaginative fellow on this disc so far. He is not just fascinated with the means he has on hand (the machinery), but is also able to compose, really compose, with that machinery, and this is what distinguishes him from the aforementioned composers, who seem to have collected sounds more randomly. Track seven - "Landscape" - continues in frail metallics and noiseband events, in a feeling of something big slowly moving, like a glacier crackling and shrugging, or the cooling lava moving irresistibly down the hill. This is definitely very attractive electroacoustic music from Mr. Vasilliev. Track eight - "Game" - is more sudden, cut up in shorter events, like the sounds of a steam locomotive sampled in short and manipulated staccatos. It's like Vasilliev is stopping and starting a reel-to-reel tape with noisebands, like a rap DJ stopping and starting his turntables. Very appealing! Vasilliev's last entry - "Hymn" - sounds at first like a distant turbo-prop airplane, but moves over into some kind of overtone spectrum, playing at the seasickness of hard Atlantic crossings. The sounds move into a percussive state, and again I realize that Vasilliev is a very interesting composer, very imaginative. The deep humming and the distant engine sounds make you feel like you're in some submerged or subterranean secret factory with generators and dynamos. Suddenly I recognize sounds that are so much like what I've heard on pieces by Jean-Claude Risset that I almost suspect Vasilliev of stealing those parts, but maybe that's not the case? Anyhow, Artem Vasilliev alone makes a purchase of this CD well worth while. He is very good at what he's doing! Track ten, and the last entry on CD I, is Andrei Rodionov's "Laboratory - 8". Here we have pure electronics, sounding like the experiments John Chowning conducted in works like "Turenas" and "Stria". Percussive, bumping, hopping sounds smear out onto long, drifting layers of oily, wet sounds, causing you to fall back into a feeling of hypnotic rest or meditation, and suddenly I realize that I get the exact same feeling from Brian Eno's "Discreet Music". This too is very interesting music, which adds considerably to the value of the number one CD of the two that make up Volume I of Electroshocks compilations of electroacoustic music. The only complaint I have is that the last piece here is too short (5:18). With a feeling like that it should really be released on a CD all by itself, across the eighty minutes available. Congratulations, Rodionov! The second CD of Volume I starts off with Vladimir Nikolayev on two tracks. Nikolayev's first entry is "Antique Landscape", an extremely well composed and well-planned adventure. The beginning is a frantic violin in a repeated pattern with a few coda-like abruptions. The violin is joined and taken over by rough scrapings and then a background of micro-percussions is laid out, with the distant humming of airplane sounds. Different events succeed each other in seamless continuations, and it is a very impressive set of electroacoustics Nikolayev lays down here. I suppose you could brand this entry "mixed form", but it's so well done that you hardly think of the traditional instruments (mostly the violin) other than as parts of the fabric of sound. This is clear, piercing, intellectual electroacoustics at its best! The second track, which also is Nikolayev's, is "Laughtrack", in which he manipulates the sounds of laughter in a number of ways. This is probably the most advanced try at this theme, which many composers have tried. The only other really good laugh track that I've heard is Bruno Maderna's "Le Rire", but this Nikolayev track stands up well to Maderna's piece. Some parts of this piece reminds me of some early pieces by Pierre Schaeffer, too, and even a piece by Laurie Anderson comes to mind; a piece where she plays the violin, but in a modified way, where she has replaced the band on the bow with a magnetic tape with recorded dog barkings, while she has also mounted tape recorder heads on the violin instead of strings. Contemplate that! Anyhow, Vladimir Nikolayev gets full score for his two pieces here! Tracks three and four belong to Artemiy Artemiev, the owner of the label. His first track - "Space Distortion" - comes full-fledged with sounds that actually reminds me some of the recordings that exist of the magnetic field around some of the planets, and the piece moves along in a relentless force, with many layers of overtones dispersing through the sounding space. Artemiev's second piece is "Evening in the Country", a short event combining electroacoustic means with the traditional behavior of some popular music, even hinting, it seems to me, at some countryside datja Christmas celebration. Some of the ripples of crystalline sounds echo soundworlds that I'm familiar with through Swedish pioneer Ralph Lundsten. Tracks five and six on the second CD are shaped by Stanislav Kreitchi. His first track is "Music for Wood and Metal", which is exactly what it is too. It starts off kind of silently and cautiously, with distant metallics, but the sounds grow stronger and closer. Many composers have tried this venue, like Iannis Xenakis and Iancu Dumitrescu, but to compose a good and innovative percussion piece is a hard feat, and I don't know how interesting this is. It's well done, but it hardly moves much inside me. The electroacoustics here reduce themselves to some minor manipulations, it seems. Kreitchi's second piece is "Triptych Ocean", and it starts of more interestingly, with piercing electronic high shrill sounds, moving over into olden studio sounds from way-back-when; the sort of basic experimental sounds that Konrad Boehmer and Herbert Eimert worked with in late 1950s, early 1960s, and I like these early, historic sounds very much. The CD booklet doesn't give any clue as to when the pieces actually were composed, so maybe this is old music. As opposed to his first track here, this Kreitchi piece is very interesting. Percussive instruments emerge here too, but this time around they fit into the electronic fabric, heightening the experience. Very good! Edward Artemiev arrives on tracks seven and eight on this second CD of Volume I. His first piece is "I Would Like to Return", which comes on at first in deep ominous murmurs, from some kind of deep murky subconscious realm, where evil memories play at the mental health of the mind. Orchestral sounds rise up out of the depths, like glimpses of history, digested by the subconscious and thrown about in the chamber of submerged memories and dreams. Highly sophisticated and very interesting! Artemiev senior's next entry is "Summer" - a long piece of fifteen minutes. It begins with a summer rain and distant thunder, and applies soft synthesizer sounds. This is not at all in the venue of his earlier piece on this CD, which was murky and dark and experimental. This is more mellow, dreamy, laid back and relaxed, and in my view much less interesting. A woman's voice softens the brew even more, and the mixed-in nature sounds almost make me feel that this is the kind of relaxation pieces you can buy in health food stores or New Age boutiques. Personally I don't much favor melodic and too soft electroacoustics, but this piece may well suite someone with s different set of ears, a different set of experiences. It is all very well done. The way the female voice comes in is an interesting aspect of this otherwise, to me, too mellow brew. The concluding piece is a short entry by Andrei Rodionov. Probably thrown in at the end to fill up CD space, because it's merely a joke, a play on a few sounding objects, some percussion and a voice uttering "boiing", plus some synthesizer keyboardings. Rodionov has shown elsewhere on this set what he is capable of. This short piece is too shallow American to me. On the whole this Volume I (two CDs) of Electroshock's series of compilations with electroacoustic music is well worth hearing (if you can find it, ha-ha!) and some of the entries are very interesting. Seriously, how can we persuade Mr. Artemiev to print a second edition?

Ingvar loco Nordin ("Sonoloco Records Reviews")


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