Spanning twenty years of output, L’envol reflects Elizabeth Anderson’s trajectory, from the dialogic, event — driven, and directly cinematic Mimoyecques, to the abstracted, texture — carried, more deliberate (… and Beyond). This is not to suggest a lack of kinship between then and now; if nothing else, the works presented here point to a galvanization and redoubling of technique. Like a painter applying layers of paint, removing some material, repainting, removing, and covering again, Anderson’s works, obliquely and at times directly, engages with a satisfying process of building, removing, and finding ways to erase delineation. Her sound world is unified as though it were fog marrying a forest at dusk: an obscured but not precisely static system of pitchless textures, with elements slowly coming to light (as in the inexorably chilling yet moving opening to Solar Winds). Throughout these works, Anderson places focus on timbral and spectral space and organic evolution of material, featuring small, yet energetic, flashes of warm light that delicately pull the listener deeper and deeper into these gently hallucinatory worlds.
One of the more striking works on the collection is 1994’s Mimoyecques, a programmatic work inspired by the eponymous fortress in Marquise, France. Using separate readings about World War II, Anderson collects a kind of private monologue from persons speaking in the languages of prisoners during the War — Bulgarian, French, Czech, Danish — over a dozen, all told. Beyond the crystalline introductory passages open the doors of the fortress, the narratives one by one tumbling forth in what becomes a potent, if not heady, documentary of an invented memory. The narrative moves from French to a superimposition of Hebrew, German, and Russian, and the work builds to a dizzying and visceral climax, with a vocoded chorale of one arising from the collapse of the sonic material.
Protopia/Tesseract (2005-2007), inspired by Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, examines Anderson’s interpretation of spatio — temporal compression. In two movements, the first is a more slowly — evolving sound world, with shimmering, veiled threads that surface and disappear amidst a roiling, warm underpinning. A lightning bolt or a collapse of the universe onto itself and the listener is in the thick of a crowd, which spins away, as though it begins to orbit the background textures (which have, at this point, continued to transform). The second movement — the track which closes out the album — is a luxurious wash of timbres that seems to be in near — constant motion. The ensuing dizzying sonic journey — with strata moving at various speeds against each other — surrounds and consumes the listener, and the material, arresting in its own right, becomes further compelling as the spinning web of sounds somehow transmogrifies into an embrace, which itself slowly dissolves into the ether.
This ineffable warmth and richness prevails, particularly in the most recent pair of works, Solar Winds (2012) and … and Beyond (2014). Solar Winds — which Anderson constructed in part by incorporating acoustic translations of electromagnetic phenomena — emerges from a true nothing, with perhaps one of the most haunting and affecting opening gestures this side of Norgard; the chime and decay gesture more than a minute in, despite the relative low amplitude intensity, is tremendously effective, garnering a momentary stunned listener. And this is crucial to Anderson’s technique: in an almost Webern — like way, a single small gesture or event in the right part of the spectrum can have the impact of an unexpected rimshot. … and Beyond, a companion piece to Solar Winds, questions the very nature of the universe and the universe beyond one’s own mind. Again mapping astronomical information into the work (though I am compelled to ask how), Anderson creates a quietly lavish shifting plane of textures that ultimately moves into a realm of pulse and rhythm. The work, despite the quasi — programmatic nature of the piece as a vessel to look beyond the known, seems rooted in the very organic and very terrestrial as the work seems to inhale and exhale — and even has a heartbeat (or perhaps two) — as it maneuvers us through an unknown universe. The stunning yet restrained piece concludes with what may be tantamount to an acousmatic question mark.
Drawing her inspirations from a wealth of subjects — but in this release, predominantly science and speculative philosophy — Anderson’s works are still somewhat spare in texture. Even at their most active and intense, the works are never adipose and remain texturally pellucid, smoldering aural embers that flare and glow, an inviting field of uniform color that inexplicably remains in constant flux, simultaneously drawing us in while engaging our most primordial senses of alertness. The works — rich, eloquent yet efficient, and strangely beguiling — are studies in an intense subtlety and an economy of spectrum coupled with a mastery of pacing, all the more remarkable in how the concentrated material can conjure up and propel the imagination.