electrocd

Review

Ian Whalley, Array Online, November 9, 2000

Montréal based composer Ned Bouhalassa specializes in acousmatic works and his teachers included Kevin Austin and Francis Dhomont. Various sources influence his work including cinema, contemporary visual art and science fiction. Bruce Gottlieb’s notes also indicate diverse influences of: volatile popular music like Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Public Enemy; academic and underground venues; and the sophistication of the commercial music production. The composer has worked in a variety of media, including cinema, television, the internet, and techno-derived styles.

CD notes indicate that his acousmatic work attempts to balance structural with emotional and poetic concerns. Jets is the opening offering, a dynamic and energetic work using jet-shaped materials that moves freely in the piece with at times wild abandon. The result is eerie and angular, and the sonic metaphors are strangely mixed in parts. A sense of spontaneity is balanced with interesting textures, and pace balanced with unity. The sense of timing is outstanding.

Constamment (autoportrait) is autobiographical in five sections, skimming a variety of musical influences. Sonically it lacks cohesion despite the interesting byways that vary in quality from the sublime to the mundane. The techno sections in particular are less convincing.

The CD notes describe Attraction as the composer’s ‘nihilistic apogee including magnetic impulses that collide violently or hurtle away’. Composer notes indicate that the piece ‘consists of various representation of the energy that is build up and released in many types of attractions’: the result being a series on non-recurring and complex gestures. The work mixes musique concrète techniques and analog synthesis with digital transformation. In context, it sounds dated, yet the work has enough internal interest to keep the listener dramatically involved.

Move 1 is a poetic study of abstract representations of human and animal movement. The composer constructed a MIDI data generator that alters a variety of controllers each time a sample is played. A flowing, complex and yet homogeneous texture results, with a great sense of discipline.

Bouffée délirante is Bouhalassa’s first attempt to realise ‘cinema for the ear’. It also represents the composer’s initial exploration of montage and the ‘sudden jump-cut gesture’. The subject matter is one of personal introspection leading to madness. In context, the control of discontinuity is superb, drawing the listener into an increasing sense of fragmentation.

The CD in total achieves the composer’s aim of balancing the spontaneous and poetic with the control of form and content. The variety of techniques and control of diverse genres is impressive, as is the control of sonic metaphors. Perhaps more interesting is the balance of the best new and old techniques, and the familiar with the unfamiliar. This allows the composer to create within tested methods, yet also to reinvent and create within them. The edgy style constantly keeps one interested, and the sheer variety of material leaves one with the sense that this disk will be often revisited.