Jos Smolders, Earlabs, April 5, 2009

Empreintes Digitales presents new works by Ned Bouhalassa, a new generation Canadian electroacoustic composer presenting gutsy and urban electroacoustic music. Definitely a leap forward!!

This prestigious Canadian label is renowned for its high quality sound releases. 95% of its artists have a degree in composition and lecture at some place in the world. The sound quality of the releases are sublime, 24-bit recording and mastering. The best you can get. Still, in the past few years I somehow had heard enough. It was all too shiny and also the software used by the composers and their semantics became somewhat too similar. There was a rather clear cut “Empreintes Digitales” sound. This release stands out from the crowd.

Bouhalassa, in the liner notes, writes that he imagines himself a giant who plays the city with a record player needle. The composer has an impressive career in scoring for film music as well, which helps to improve underscoring real life sounds and images, of course.

Bouhalassa makes a connection to contemporary city life and so takes the music out of the state of the art high tech studio. The center piece of the disc is the 34 minutes Urban Cuts featuring the work of poet Fortner Anderson and electronics added with cello (Delphine Measroch) and drums (Christian Olsen). The feel of this work is definitely ’urban’. It’s a journey (the poem tells about it) but not in the ’conventional’ acousmatic style. No, there are parts where the drums really work a groove, together with the basses that we know from the drum ’n’ bass area. These are alternated with the recitation by Anderson (himself) accompanied by field recordings and electronics. A true adventure for the listener with a firm musical background in modern dance music (like my kids, who enjoyed this a lot as well).

The other tracks on this disc, though as lengthy as ’urban cuts’ also breathe the outdoor, city atmosphere. Field recordings of the Berlin underground at some point grow out to become massive sound walls. Bouhalassa uses slamming doors as turning points in one of the other works, Impulse. It starts with the sound of a car driving away (immediate reference to Kraftwerk) and later doors are on several occasions breaks to a new soundscape. The city is almost always somehow the general background.

This is a very strong collection of works. May be so Bouhalassa regarded himself a DJ, selecting what he likes from his large collection of recordings. His choices are well made, and I hope Empreintes Digitales will allow more of such adventurous composers to release their work.

Rated: 9/10

… gutsy and urban electroacoustic music. Definitely a leap forward! […] This is a very strong collection of works.