Pretty much anyone with a functioning cochlea will find something to like on this massive collection of recent electroacoustic works from the Canadian Electroacoustic Community (Communauté électroacoustique canadienne). 34 pieces from 32 composers in 11 countries can seem a bit daunting at first, but a taste for surprising sounds and liberal use of your CD player’s fast-forward and skip-track buttons will get you through. And you’ll be the better for the journey!
The packaging for this two CD set is a bit odd — the discs don’t really fit in the sleeve, and the large booklet is at odds with its container. The cover image is nice, though. The booklet, written in English and French, is thorough and useful, with a brief introduction to the CDs and composer-written notes for each of the pieces.
It would be difficult to put together 34 different pieces of music and not be struck by how different they are (although Short Music for Short People managed pretty well!). Still, it’s worth mentioning that regardless of your preconceptions of the CEC/acousmatic scene (you do have preconceptions, don’t you? Heathen.), these discs represent an impressive range of styles, sounds and techniques, all within the rough boundaries of the acousmatic genre. That means there’s no punk rock or dance music here, although several of the pieces do get pretty grungy and/or rhythmic.
A few semi-randomly picked highlights:
Adrian Moore’s Soundbodies: Bodypart (1998) is full of suggestive, out-of-body voices, zipping around like jacked up goblins. Antti Saario’s B-Side (1998) manages to be both funky and mysterious. Au-delà du miroir (1998) by Daniel Zimbaldo is a long, lovely arch. Steve Bradley’s “volalle melodie vi to trot” / “fowl melody to trot” (1999) is a strange, crackling collage of voices and fuzz. DUO (1997-98) by jef chippewa is a balloonaphobe’s nightmare. Gordon Fitzell’s Zipper Music II (1998) is just as much fun as its name implies.
Although a few of the pieces here are a bit too acousmatic for my taste (a ball rolls, a door slams, a baby cries, a train toots), this really is an impressive, listenable collection of electronic music. If you’ve been wondering what this “electroacoustic” thing that you keep hearing about is, or if you’re just looking to add a chunk of contemporary electronic music to your collection, then Presence II would be a fine place to start.