Posts Tagged ‘Classical’

zeitkratzer productions – zkr0027 – 23RD October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

As the founder of one of Europe’s leading avant-garde orchestral ensembles in the form of zeitkratzer, whose releases include recordings of Metal Machine Music, works by Stockhausen, and two collections of Whitehouse ‘covers’, Reinhold Friedl is very much at the forefront of contemporary classical. Formed in 1997 with Friedl on piano (sometimes a ‘prepared’ piano, a la John Cage), they’ve established themselves a formidable force, incorporating elements of free experimentalism and drone.

For the recording of KRAFFT, the nine-piece ensemble came together with another respected musical collective, Ensemble 2e2m, a chamber group from Paris dating back to 1972, known for their unique sound and the first recordings of Giacinto Scelsi’s music.

As the press release recounts, KRAFFT for orchestra was composed in 2016 as a commission from the French State and premiered in Paris and Marseille. It was also the first meeting of the two ensembles – and yet the come together perfectly to create four immense, drone-orientated passages.

Being Friedl, there is a great deal of detail and precision behind the methodology: this is certainly not random stop-start hums and thrums or elongated notes played with varying – and usually increasing – intensity, and for this reason I shall quite at length: ‘KRAFFT is a minimalist maximal composition: all instruments play in rhythmic unison throughout. Only the sounds and their combinations change relentlessly throughout the piece. KRAFFT is spelt wrong on purpose to create an ironic-onomatopoetic rendition of the German term “Kraft”, meaning “power” or “force”. The listener is exposed to a sonic undertow. The notion of huge power and force is connected here to clandestine and unknown rules controlling the progression of sound; something is happening, but we do not exactly know what, when or how. KRAFFT is composed with the help of the computer program TTM (Textural Transformation Machine), developed by Reinhold Friedl to sculpture multiple random processes.’

The TTM formed part of Friedl’s Ph.D. at Goldsmiths University London, and was developed by the composer to sculpture texture transformations with the help of sophisticated random processes. As such, Friedl’s compositional methodology develops way in which John Cage incorporated random determiners within his work, and in using a ‘machine’ to make those random selections, he distances the ‘composer’ from the composition and increases the likelihood of true randomisation.

Returning to KRAFFT, there is a clear trajectory to the composition as a whole, namely an intensity and volume which increases incrementally as it progresses over the course of half an hour. The first part is soft, light, even playful, moving into somewhat darker, more discordant territory onto the second.

By part 4, immense booming low-end notes surge and rumble with such density as to have an almost physical force. Atop of this, the smaller strings scrape, squawk and twitter like birdsong and feedback. It’s an eleven-minute tidal wave of sound that swells and surges to a crescendo of truly enormous proportions. While it’s safe to say it’s unlikely to be aired on Classic FM, KRAFFT is as accomplished and powerful orchestral work as you’ll hear all year.

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Christopher Nosnibor

This one’s been languishing in the vaults for a while now, but one of the things about recording prolifically is that sometimes it takes time to catch up on the release schedule. And so Gintas K’s variations in a-moll for a granular synthesis gets to see the light of day in the middle of a solid and steady release schedule which has seen the release of one or two albums a year for the last three.

Of the six sequentially-numbered tracks, all but one are well over the ten-minute mark, and the shortest is over eight minutes in duration.

Not a lot happens, at least initially: repetitive synth stabs on a single note with varying levels of force shift into different notes. They begin to overlap, and a fuzz of distortion decays the edges. Gradually it slides into a mess of overloading noise: the synths crackle and burn among a billowing walls of darkness.

Across the album, scraping granularity and stuttering dominate the foreground. It difficult to settle to a constant flickering, a crackling distortion of interrupting signals, and the sensation is disorientating, dissonant, disruptive. By the third piece, the sounds has degraded to a rumbling crackle. This sonic disintegration could likely be taken as a metaphor for something. But for what? Well, from a reception theory perspective, you can insert your own metaphor as appropriate. To me, it feels like a sort of glitched-out panic attack, a mental collapse as a response to the crumbling culture at the tail-end of 2019. A decade slumping to its bitter end in an amorphous mass of fragmentation, with rhythms reduced to swampy surges back and forth, and fractal notes dance skittishly.

The fifth piece introduces some softer tones, an ambient wash that’s cracked and damaged, bur nevertheless hints at something mellow… and then it tears apart from the seams as a heavy fog of noise descends, and the final composition splinters and breaks, the shards bursting apart in slow-motion to leave rubble and dust.

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Gintas K – variations in a-moll for a granular synthesis

Consouling Sounds – 23rd June 2017

IIVII – pronounced ‘ivy’ as it so happens – is the musical vehicle for visual artist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Josh Graham. It’s actually quite fitting to the creeping ambience and gradually-expanding soundscapes which develop almost imperceptibly on Invasion. The bio bigs it up as being his ‘enigmatic inter-galactic solo project’, which focuses on ‘sonically engulfing and moody soundscapes, layered with a science-fiction edge.’

Graham has quite a resume: having worked as a designer and director, he has also collaborated with a variety of bands including Mastodon, Neurosis, Jesu, Shrinebuilder, ISIS and The Dillinger Escape Plan.

Invasion is pitched as a work which ‘traverses genre and explores elements of drone, classical, ambient, electronica, and vaporwave’, and it’s very much an album of tonal variety and texture, not to mention compositional and stylistic range – to the extent that sometimes one might wonder if the playlist has moved onto something else entirely.

Invasion is less a collection of individual pieces but a single set which forms an ever0shifting whole; from the lonely piano which echoes across the expansive atmospherics of ‘We Came Here from a Dying World’ through the creeping bassline and fear notes which hang hauntingly on ‘Unclouded by Conscience’, with its distant, rolling drum and post-rock intimations, and through the more overtly beat-driven.

There are extended minimalist moments, like the slow-pule hum which introduces ‘Hidden Inside’ to stark and chilling effect; the glitchy bass and glacial overtones do little to soften the icy bleakness of the funeral bells and amorphous sonic drifts which carry a chilly edge over the occasional bursts of subsonic thunder. Melodic arabesques rise from eddying pools of resonant bass hums and twirling contrails.

The tribal beats and throbbing synthesized bass, draped with icy synth notes, which define the dynamic drive of ‘No More Enemies’ call to mind Movement era New Order: it’s dark, detached, otherworldly, and corresponds with the album’s artwork, which depicts an invading species of alien origin (also completed by Graham, who, poignantly, served as Soundgarden’s art director at the time of the press release).

Nuanced has become one of those words, but there’s a rich detail and infinite texture to be found on Invasion that demands its application. This is an articulate, considered and meticulously-realised work which operates on multiple levels.

 

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