Review

Ios Smolders, Earlabs, December 10, 2006

I started this review by trying to describe what happened inside those seven compositions. That is however both tedious work and the result of that hard labour will still not be enough to give the reader the right idea about what this music really is. Let’s take a look at what I managed:

Onset/Offset

The opening of a door, the flanged (slowly declining) sound that resembles the peeling off of cellotape. Stop, start again. The same sound types, the same order but slightly differently mixed, edited, placed. Then the distinct sound of a ball in a bowl. Stop, start again. New scene: closing of a door. Sub bass, re-editing of previous sounds. Reverberated, echoed and snappier cut. Stop, start again. We’re outside. Street sounds, at first clearand unadulterated but soon caught in a wide mix with reverberations, the sounds of the first scenes, and street sounds. After which the composition rounds it up with the sounds of the first few minutes.

Peel

This work is not as scenic as the first one and concentrates much more on the morphing of sounds. Central sound source is (I think) the sound of a turning coin. Reminding us of course of one of the first Études of Pierre Schaeffer. Then the sound changes and we no longer appear to be dealing with a Schaefferian but simply with a ball inside a roulette disk. New scene, starting with the final second of the first scene. But now everything breaks down again, and again. The sound of the ball is edited again and again. After a few minutes we hear, from the distance, the voice of a child. Then: silence and booming sounds. We’re teleported to a family scenery. The conversation between a small child and his very English parents. After which the story continues with sounds of wrapping paper, clicks, humms. Aside from the funny family scene, not the best work. It starts of quite strong but somehow looses its direction on the way out.

See? This might be regarded as a sort of map, but still you wouldn’t see the landscape. The problem with this music (and indeed a lot of the music released by empreintes DIGITALes) is that it consists of so many layers and the musical structure is so complex that trying to describe will always fail to transmit the essential.

So, how shall I proceed to review this release? Let me do that in separate phases. First some words about the total collection, after which a short description (no more) of each of the compositions. Then I might compare it to works that have already been released so that the reader has a point of reference. After which some words about the package and such.

It is most important to keep your attention with the music. Do not, really, do not start another activity because you will miss out on 80% of the quality of this music. Also, listening with headphones is not recommended. The music needs to float freely through the air. I found listening through headphones not as pleasant as through speakers. The sounds heard in the compositions on this disc keep a strong link with their origins. 90% of the sounds are firmly rooted in real acoustic phenomena. We hear, for instance, the rolling of a ball in the roulette table, but it is presented to us in such a fashion that those parts of the acoustics are enhanced, that we normally neglect. This double negative, together with the sound icon that we already have of a ball rolling over a wooden plain, gives the impression of a sort of acoustic super reality.

The whole disc is in this vein. Recordings are crystal clear and edits or the elaborations of these are never cloggy. So, in that corner everything’s hunky dory. I have more difficulty with the musical structure which can be hard to follow, sometimes. At times it seems like the music is designed on a second to second basis. This is especially the case where the sounds remain close to the original (phonographic) recording. There, Stollery seems to want to change our perspective again and again with abrupt or heavily processed interludes. As you may see in the descriptions of the two first compositions above but it also appears in composition number 5: ABZ/A. Composition numbers 3, 4, 5, and 7 (Shioum, Altered Images, Shortstuff and Vox Magna) are different. They are not as closely related to an acoustic source and follow a very clear thread of development.

We get 7 compositions, ranging from 1993 to 2003, on this disc that is presented in several formats: [88 kHz / 24-bit, 48 kHz / 24-bit], and in AAC and MP3 (320 kbps).

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