Nikos Stavropoulos is a Greek acousmatic music composer, formally educated in the UK and based in Leeds. His strong academic background links his work to the British school of Simon Emmerson and Denis Smalley but, despite his aesthetic being deeply rooted in that field, Nikos has a very personal perspective and carefully blends his Mediterranean heritage within his work, resulting in a complex structure of cultural references and mythical vestiges.
Micro-lieux is a collection of works composed between 2003 and 2017 and connected together by a very unique standpoint about the nature of granular sounds. In all his pure acousmatic pieces Stavropoulos includes organic elements and constant references to botany, seeds and vegetal corpuscles from which new life can stem and fractally evolve into the most complex and unexpected shapes. His gestures never feel as they were artificially sculpted by human hands, instead they happen gently as if they were the most natural consequence of the interactions occurring between organic agents. The composers behaviour in such setting is maieutic, fertilizing the soil and helping to extract and shape a formal sense from the rhizomatic structure of the natural chaos. Compositions such as Granatum, Ballistichory and Nyctinasty are the best examples of this particular attitude, in which the composer feels more like an Arcadian observer of utopic ecosystems and wanders, body and mind, in an introspective elegy, ready to be infused by the truth of a sonic revelation, an acoustic granular epiphany.
A totally different discourse is necessary for Granicus. Here the martial rhythmic patterns counterpointing the concrete sounds set us in a primitive tribal environment of Doric flavour, while the reference to the battle of the Granicus River — the first major victory of Alexander the Great against the Persian empire in 334 BC — together with the ponderous bass pedal entering about half way through piece, serve to establish an epic narrative that flows strongly throughout the piece.
Once again the electroacoustic consciousness blends with the Greek heritage of the composer: while the interaction between percussion phrasing and electronic sounds shares features with the live electronic performances of Gilles Gobeil, the choice of timbres and pace are reminiscent of percussion pieces by Iannis Xenakis, such as the second movement of Rebonds, Psappha and Peaux from Pleiades.
This is a strong first release for Nikos Stavropoulos, and a very good asset for Empreintes DIGITALes.
[…] Ähnliches lässt sich aber genauso gut mit einer strengen kompositorisch-konzeptuellen Arbeitsweise erreichen: Die britische Komponistin Annie Mahtani nimmt auf ihrem Debüt Racines (empreintes DIGITALes) das „ernste” Genre der akademisch neutönenden Elektroakustik und übersetzt es in elektronische Klänge, die in ihrer nahbaren Ästhetik mitten im Ambient angekommen sind. Mahtani arbeitet mit Ideen der besonders der Sound Art geläufigen Praxis der Akusmatik, also mit „natürlichen” Klängen, die spezifisch für eine Wiedergabe auf mehrkanaligen Lautsprechersystemen manipuliert werden. Durch die elektrische Verstärkung und digitale Herausarbeitung von Klängen, die in den unbearbeiteten Feldaufnahmen, welche Mahtani als Klangquellen dienen, eventuell gar nicht hörbar wären, werden dokumentarische Aufnahmen zu immersiven Soundscapes, die auch ohne den akusmatischen Kontext perfekt als Ambient funktionieren.
Crickets and clocks, seagulls and strings ~ one could be forgiven for thinking Sophie Delafontaine is writing a Dr. Suess book. Her natural curiosity is just as great, and on Accord ouvert she translates her alliterative collections into electro-acoustic studies.
There’s a strongly academic approach at work in UK-based Nikos Stavropoulos’ first album (perhaps unsurprisingly for someone with a Doctor title). It’s a compilation of eight works dated between 2003 and 2017, each typically between seven and eleven minutes long and each accompanied by their own independent explanatory paragraph that describes or justifies it with reference first to its title, then by the musical process by which it was reached.
Despite being a compilation spanning works over more than a decade though, this still holds together with the consistency of an artist album, because of a relatively singular and persistent approach. Predominantly, this is electroacoustic music with quite a bubbly nature, transposing biological data and rapid but arhythmic organic noises into fragile-sounding synthetic tones. It’s frequently scratchy, but interspersed with occasional thicker and wetter bass noises and rumbling percussive grumbles that add an unpredictable drama. The result is both atmospheric and alien, with a generally intimate, sometimes almost claustrophobic tone.
Pieces like Ballistichory, despite being inspired by seed dispersal, sound organically alive in a way that is unlikely to appeal to anyone with phobias of crawling insects, sounding as it does like angry ant colonies microphoned up while they strategise and attack. Other works like Nyctinasty and Granatum are drawn from very similar source remedies but are a little mellower, despite still being rapid — like a sonic interpretation of what vegetables would sound like if they could tweet like songbirds.
Granicus stands out as an exception, by drawing from ancient-sounding Eastern European and Asian dance rhythms that are contrasted and contradicted against themselves to some degree, but which for the most part hang together as a dramatic piece worthy of a dusty, desert-based, before-the-battle-tension scene for a non-existent movie.
There’s something a little over-familiar about the release as a whole — the combination of wet and bubbly organic grain noises feel a little like an electroacoustic staple and it doesn’t feel like any new ground has been identified with it here. To its credit though it is a polished and accessible example of it, with accompanying texts that serve well as an introductory process for new or sceptical listeners.
David Berezan was last heard by us with his 2013 collection Allusions Sonores, but he’s here today with Cycle nautique (IMED 18154). Unlike our two English composers above, this award-winning fellow is strictly Canadian and has held residencies in Calgary and Montréal. The entire set here has a maritime theme, with titles such as Lightvessels, Moorings and Offshore, and creates impressionistic sketches of the life on the ocean wave. However, not content with the usual viewpoint behind the wheel, Berezan also explores imaginatively what it might be like among the submerged hulls bumping about when they’re tethered along the waterfront, and tries at all times to confuse our sense of “place” by treating the ship’s exteriors like interiors, and vice versa. I’m all for letting the seawater flood inside the vessel whenever possible. One interesting experiment has been to use the clarinet improvisations of Marij von Gorkom in service of his grand plan; given the nature of the genre, her sounds are completely transformed by Berezan’s intensive digital processing, but it’s the unique action of her mouthpiece that lends Offshore its distinctive character. I’m also taken with Buoy, which speculates about the nature of the signals (bells, whistles) used by buoys to aid navigation, producing information which can also help with scientific research to do with the tides and the weather. Field recordings of wind and oceans are thus mingled with bell sounds and impressions of data-streams whizzing through the atmosphere. I like the imaginative nature of this set.