Jon Appleton’s Contes de la mémoire, takes a much less abrasive approach to electroacoustic music. Until a giant, sadistic, gong-playing praying mantis infiltrates the album toward the very end, carrying a frazzled television set, most of these pieces sound like Eno, Dr. Who theme music or ethnic field-recording sampler collages.
The two pieces around which the album revolves, for me, are San Francisco Airport Rock and Newark Airport Rock, both of which are assemblages of random responses to the question “What do you think about the new electronic music?,” asked in Newark in 1967, and San Francisco in 1996.
The two sets of answers are nearly indistinguishable compendiums of blithe ignorance, indiscriminate approval, rank intransigence and dopey techno-mysticism. I don’t know whether Appleton’s deliberately vague phrasing (perhaps “the new electronic music” meant something specific in 1967, but in 1996 it could refer to practically anything, and Appleton’s academic electroacoustic music is hardly the likeliest referent) was a calculated tactic to elicit amusing stupidity, or he really expects to find a critical mass of sophisticated John Cage fans in a random airport sampling, but either way, the result does for music-appreciation about what Frank Zappa’s Porn Wars did for obscenity.