To be perfectly honest I normally avoid these empreintes DIGITALes releases like the Hounds of Hell — they seem a tad too tasteful and nowhere near radical enough for me, but this one by Toronto composer Randall Smith is commendable. On this showcase of his works realised between 1995 and 1999, he works extensively with acoustic instruments. Liquid Fragments 1 is one interesting hybrid… half of it was composed for double-bass and flute, and the other hatf of it is tapework — studio manipulations of his own recordings. The sensual way he mixed the two together, ‘pouring’ the sounds into different channels of the studio mixer, makes the prospect for the listener as delicious as the preparation of a chocolate cake. Smith enjoys his work as much as a chef enjoys doling out the cake barter into his awaiting baking trays. The later work ‘InsideOut’ also uses famiiiar instruments from the orchestra, but he’s reprocessed them to such an intensive degree that very little trace of their original acoustic qualities remain. Yet the music he makes out of it is still somehow very ‘tuneful’, and certainly won’t set your alarm bells ringing if you mistrust modern composition because you think it’s a discordant, shapeless din. By the time we get to Continental Rift, he’s concentrating on a single instrument — Paul Widner’s cello. This virtuoso cellist is required to play short pastiches of classical music signatures, borrowings from Bach and Beethoven, in snippets composed by Randall Smith — only to have his work melted in the crucible of the electroacoustic studio. Smith deploys one of his trademark sounds here, the exhilarating rush like a helicopter ascending which he probably achieves by turning his ring-modulator dial up to 11. This work is norhing less than a philosophicai meditation on the evolution of the earth’s geographical outlines; but despite its metaphysical ambitions it’s still rather lightweight and somehow falls short of the profundity of La création du monde, Parmegiani’s take on the same subject.