Electroshock Records: Review:  
Electroshock Presents: "Electroacoustic Music. Vol. VII"
(Electroshock Records 2002. ELCD 026-027)
Disk #1 - 10 tracks. Total time - 73:24.
Disk #2 - 10 tracks. Total time - 74:27.

Volume VII in the Russian label "Electroshock Records" electroacoustic music series is a double CD affair. It gathers contributions from European, Israeli, North and South-American composers. The music covers a wide field of interests, from academic electroacoustics down to 70's-like analog electronics. Like any other such compilation (i.e. lacking a central theme), there are hits and misses, but the former overrun the latter. The strongest contribution on disc 1 comes from Claire Laronde, an artist already featured on a previous volume. Her 13-minute piece "Les Particules de la Perception" does not redefine the genre, but it is a captivating electroacoustic work nonetheless. Roderik De Man's "Air to Air, Part I" and Robin Julian Heifetz's "Flashpoint" both use as main sound source an acoustic instrument (bass clarinet and cello respectively) and constitute the other highlights. Disc 2 begins with a whooping 36 minutes of music (split over two works, both highly poetic) from the underrated Brazilian composer Jorge Antunes. Argentina's Jose Mataloni completes the South-American touch with his "Tiempo Dos". In the "misses" department we find Michal Bukowski's "Sen Paranoika 28", a "Tangerine Dream"-like tune that sounds very outdated in this collection. Arie Shapira's deconstructive DJ set "Gustl in Theresienstadt" fails to convince, while Oophoi's "Dissolving in the Void" doesn?t reach the strength of the material on his own album "Bardo", released by "Electroshock" at the same time of this volume. Electroacoustic music lovers will find Electroshock Presents: "Electroacoustic Music. Vol. VII" a worthy item, if only for the pieces by Laronde and Antunes.

Francois Couture ("All-Music Guide")

The seventh volume of the "Electroacoustic Music" sampler collection on Russian label "Electroshock Records" is a showcase of ambient/experimental artists from all over the world. Most of the compositions are from the past two years, but one of the two longer suites is actually dated 1969/1970 and is by Jorge Antunes, from Brazil. With its nearly 17 minutes, his four-part opera takes up more than one fifth of the entire duration of the second disc, and in the same fashion a nearly 13 minutes long three-part experimental ambient-noise symphony by French Claire Laronde opens the first disk. Of course, in accordance with the title, next to the mostly electronic pieces of the majority of the artists there are also very interesting compositions that focus on the use, abuse and manipulation of acoustic instruments, like for example the Dutch Roderik De Man's clarinet; or the Mexican Rodrigo Sigal's beautiful long piece for multiple cellos and noises; or the American Robin Julian Heifetz blasting and chaotic track including several brasses with orchestral arrangements but industrial-noise interference. Other artists include the well known Vidna Obmana (Belgium), Geert Verbeke (Belgium), Lukazs Szalankiewicz (Poland), Michal Bukowski (Poland), Jose Mataloni (Argentina), OOPHOI (Italy), Arie Shapira (Israel), Mirjam Tally (Estonia) and "Eternal Wanderers" (Russia). An applause is definitely deserved for giving space to those artists from South American or Eastern European countries that are rarely to be seen on compilations like this, proving that there too is experimental ferment, even if small, in remote geographical places. This effort should definitely represent a reason for pride, along with the great musical value that this double CD has and will have for documenting the history of today's electroacoustical experimental music.

PS: By the way, since I haven't done this before when reviewing other albums from this label, it's about time for me to do it now: I am talking about presenting sincere compliments for the beautiful art work and design of all Electroshock releases, which always combine style and beauty, great photography and tasty digital art. Konstantin Galat (kg_spy@mail.ru) is the man behind the elegant and polished visual art that makes every Electroshock record peculiar and pleasant to look at as well.

Marc Urselli-Schaerer ("Chain D.L.K.")

This is the latest in Electroshock's series of cutting edge and experimental music compilations. This is art with a capital "A", there are no commercial considerations here, no pop hits. The two CDs contain a total of twenty tracks, and feature artists from right across the world. Those represented this time include: Claire Laronde, Vidna Obmana, Geert Verbeke, Roderik De Man, Rodrigo Sigal, Robin Julian Heifetz, Lukazs Szalankiewicz, Michal Bukowski, Jorge Antunes, Jose Mataloni, Oophoi, Arie Shapira, Mirjam Tally, Eternal Wanderers. It has to be said that the contents on this double CD is in no way easy listening. It represents a challenge for anyones' ears, including mine - one really needs an appreciation of the surreal and perhaps the bizarre to even gain a foothold with the sound presentation on this double album. I have to admit that I found most of the tracks a little too extreme for my tastes, but then I am inherently a conservative listener. If you enjoy a challenge then the "Electroacoustic Music" series may well fit the bill for you...

John Peters ("The Borderland")

While this two-disc release comes from the Russian label "Electroshock Records", its superb experimental contents are international in origin. French composer Claire Laronde kicks off with shifting waves of potent electronic and acoustic timbres in the captivating "Les Particules de la Perception". Belgium's Vidna Obmana takes a more orchestral approach with "In Memory of Morton Feldman", which spirals ever downward in the midst of terrifying tonal collages. Prepared piano, its processed timbres, and piercing bells drive "Old Peach Tree" by Geert Verbeke, also of Belgium. Mexican composer Rodrigo Sigal marries the musical meanderings of two cellists with mysterious electronic tones to create the quiet, magical "Tolerance". It's immediately followed by the energetic and clangorous "Flashpoint" by American Robin Julian Heifetz. Pole Michal Bukowski's "Sen Paranoika 28" explodes with a revelry of arpeggiating synthesizers. Brazilian Jorge Antunes paints foreboding landscapes in "Historia de un Pueblo por Nacer o Carta Abierta a Vassili Vassilikos y Todos Los Pesimistas", which was composed in 1969/70 and is at least 25 years older than anything else in this collection. Strange machines pound beneath the solemn cries of lost monks in "Dissolving in the Void" by Oophoi of Italy. The Russian psychedelic rock band Eternal Wanderers finishes off this marvelous compilation with "Message from Space", a sinister piece that includes tragic news reports about the collapsed World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Mark Vail ("Keyboard")

Just when you think it's safe to start reviewing again, along comes Electroshock's seventh in their Electroacoustic Music series (ELCD026-027), and guess what? This one's a double! Albums like these really test me, for loads of reasons. The main two are that this series constantly challenges one's use of alternative words for brilliant, astounding, and inventive. The second reason is that because (even on a single CD let alone a damn double!) it's unfair to miss anyone off, even the bad ones are relatively good! And, what's worse, is that theses CDs from the series aren't just 'sampler's for what's on the label. This double CD, like the single CDs, gathers musicians and composers in electronic, ambient, and experimental from around the globe. On this we have a French female composer, someone from Estonia, Argentina, Israel, Mexico, Poland, Belgium, USA, Brazil, Italy, and, of course, Russia - sad to see we've no British in the running? Explain please? All I'll say with this double whammy is that it's got the regular high standards of experimentation, inventiveness and has twice as much. Okay, so it's bit of a cop out, but what the hell, it's a corker, that's all you need to know!

David W. Hughes ("Modern Dance")

"Electroshock" returns with the seventh in their series of compilations bringing together electroacoustic artists from all over the globe. This time we've got a 2-CD set featuring 14 artists. Here's the rundown: From France, Claire Laronde's contribution is one of the strongest. The music begins with a short bit that combines often fiery classical piano with atmospheric electronics. But the main portion consists of layered bubbling and howling electronics along with the piano to create a piece that is atmospheric but highly thematic. There's lots of variety here and I dig the sci fi fun, the frantic piano runs, and the way Laronde continually but seamlessly evolves from one aural scene to the next. Truly a highlight among all the artists on the set and as the opener she presents challenges to the rest. The compilation includes two Belgian representatives. Vidna Obmana's offering is a powerfully intense orchestral piece that excels at creating scenes in the listeners mind (though I didn't hear as exciting an array of sounds as I did on the Laronde piece). Geert Verbeke creates wonderful sounds with percussion, the best part of the track being the head throbbing sounds he gets from simple bangs on a gong. Roderik De Man (The Netherlands) combines wind instruments (clarinet) and electronics to create an orchestral piece that also has a Univers Zero styled darkness and intensity. De Man keeps the music consistently interesting and succeeds at creating an edge-of-your-seat suspenseful feel. I really loved the combination of clarinet and orchestral electronics, straddling the line between the accessible and the avant-garde. Rodrigo Sigal (Mexico) combines chamber music with freaky electronics. At times I hear Kronos Quartet and at others the almost zany sound of Carl Stallings. Lukazs Szalankiewicz (Poland) contributes one of the more ambient moments of the set (though there are noise elements). Also from Poland, Michal Bukowski's track is reminiscent of 1970's "Tangerine Dream" or Vangelis. Robin Julian Heifetz (USA) creates a cacophonous combination of horns and electronics. Kind of like the Sun Ra Arkestra at their wildest along with a full electronic orchestra. My favorite parts of any of these tracks are the wild, often contrasting combinations of traditional instruments and freaked out electronics and Heifetz serves up oodles. If you're wearing headphones this one will force you to turn the volume down. Another one of my favorite tracks. Contributing about 36 minutes of music, Brazilian Jorges Antunes reaches into the archives to offer a 4-part 17 minute piece recorded in 1970 that at various points consists of quietly ambient drifts, seriously brain damaging noise, experimental electronic and sound noodlings, and UFO synths. Antunes also contributes a more recent 19 minute work of bubbling electronic constructions, hand and foot tapping percussion (sounds like a Fred Astaire softshoe) along with hyperventilating breathing and other freaky voices, Phantom of the Opera organ, intense wall of sound segments that feel like they're about to launch into rock song, and much more. I particularly liked the electronics that form the backdrop for an avalanche of breaking dishes. Smashing glass and thundering percussion blasts synchronize elegantly making for a somewhat violent avant-symphony. Overall this lengthy piece would have been better being 2 for 3 separate tracks as the different themes don't always flow seamlessly into the next. Still, there's lots of good ideas here and I'd be interested in hearing more of Antunes' music. Jose Mataloni (Argentina) offers an intriguing blend of voices, acoustic and electronic sounds, and actual musical sequences produced by piano and stringed instruments. A somber chamber ensemble is combined with urban traffic sounds, conversations and strange voicings, and a variety of clanging, bashing and harsh electronic sounds, showing how extreme contrasts can be thoughtfully and creatively combined to produce something that somehow seems to work well together. Oophoi's (Italy) track is a dark ghostly ambient piece that borders on the orchestral, much like the music on his "Bardo" CD. Arie Shapira (Israel) gives us a rather difficult track that sounds like someone flicking the needle around on an LP. I had a tough time with this one. In contrast, Mirjam Tally (Estonia) plays flowing ambient music given an ethereal feel by what sounds like the delicate raking of piano strings (or a harp perhaps?). And finally, Eternal Wanderers (Russia) contribute another one of my favorites consisting of electronic space with multiple layers of electronic waves, swirling UFO synths, and various other cosmic tapestries. Very good. I'd definitely be interested in hearing more from them. In summary, this and all of the other editions of the "Electroshock" Electroacoustic compilation series are sure to please fans of the genre, particularly those who like avant-garde music that doesn't drift too close to the abstract.

Jerry Kranitz ("Aural Innovations")

"Electroshock" appears to be the primary European label to undertake a consistent role in the presentation of new electroacoustic artists. Pioneers of the genre such as Pauline Oliveros have characterized the style as environmental by taking found sound and allowing the composer to utilize it in a manner he sees fit. Fourteen artists are represented in the twenty tracks in the collection making up over 150 minutes total that is a bargain to say the least. Well-documented ambient artist Belgium's Vidna Obmana puts forth "In Memory of Morton Feldman" as one of the two longest pieces on disc one. His lush soundscape rekindles flashbacks of space travel in the nightmarish "Alien" film soundtracks from Ridley Scott. The tone is huge and monstrous, adding planned anxiety not unlike Jose Matalani's contribution on disc two. On the other hand, Roderick De Man seems to prefer some melodic construct with his ambient milieu in the form of bass clarinet and images of Evan Parker's exploratory tenets. Sonic madness comes from the USA's only representative: Robin Julian Heifetz, whose motive seems obvious after synthesizer screams transcend into horns colliding mid air with French horn and later emerging into raucous cacophony. A slightly wider range of songs characterizes disc two with a few standout artists: Jorge Antunes' four part "Historia De Un Pueblo Por Macer o Carta" doesn't start to take off until part II with random chirps and UFO turrets circling in the surroundings. His outstanding follow-up piece from 1995 "Vitraux MCMXCV" is a far more fascinating political statement with its restrained pulse and brutal drama. Oophoi from Italy take the sampled radio propositions of artists like Holger Czukay to a sickly extreme. Estonia's Mirjam Tally provides the most angelic piece on the entire collection that is profoundly disconcerting. In summary, the electroacoustic community has certainly found its footing outside America with many exceptional artists and perspectives. How long will it take before we start contributing on a wider basis stateside?

Jeff Melton ("Expose")


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