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Review

Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, December 15, 2017
Friday, December 15, 2017 Press

The term “acousmatic” belongs to the category of verbal devices generalizing studio-conceived opuses that are difficult to brand. With empreintes DIGITALes, though, no question will arise about the trueness of that definition, the Canadian imprint having in fact released the finest materials coming from that area for countless years now.

London’s Manuella Blackburn is an electroacoustic composer and senior lecturer at Liverpool’s Hope University, her resume including prizes and acknowledgements beyond her young age. Petites étincelles presents five pieces sharing several traits, Blackburn’s main intent being the depiction of wide prospects from what she calls “barely there” sounds in a sort of “backward reductionism” process. The collection is informed by a soft-spoken complexity helping the listener to pay attention to both the logical attributes of the sequences of events and the meaningful micro-structures shaping up the textural evolution.

All of the above can be summarized in another shopworn, but still effective adjective: “ear-pleasing”. In truth, locating segments where what is heard results as less than hospitable is quite hard. Even the inexperienced could use this album as a useful starting point to increase their conversancy with such a creative domain. Sources range from Indian instruments to the ice floating in a glass of water, from clock mechanisms to camera shutters. Blackburn’s compositional skills magnify those transitory occurrences into elegantly structured music lacking the frigidity of a mere accumulation of sonic typologies. In that regard, she sweetens the concreteness of the original matters with profound electronics, perceived here as inherent harmonic auras complementing the sharpness of melodic cells and organic periodicities.

“Maturity” can rhyme with “accessibility” in rare occasions. This is one of them, and also a reminder of the hypocrisy of establishment-driven “gender equality”, a prepaid renown always preferred to genuine talent when it comes to covering female artists. This world needs more Blackburns than St Vincents.

… elegantly structured music…

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