2. Natasha Barrett — Puzzle Wood
Puzzle Wood is a revelation. Containing five works, four of which date from the mid-1990s, the revelatory aspects are three-fold: first, how accomplished Natasha Barrett was at this early stage in her career; second, how consistent these pieces are (aesthetically speaking) with her subsequent work; and third, how distinct and different they are from the majority of British electronic and acousmatic music being composed around that time, sounding neither remotely dated, nor in thrall to or at the mercy of the technology being used to create them. Rare indeed! And in each and every piece, Barrett’s unique, unpredictable yet organic approach to both the moment-by-moment handling of sounds as well as to their structural arrangement and distribution makes for the most vividly immersive experience. There’s something of an ambient sensibility in the way sound objects gradually acquire or deplete mass and momentum, drifting in space and meeting and melding under their own gravitational forces (particularly in 1997’s Little Animals). But equally these works exhibit a remarkable ‘demonstrative range’, from infinitesimal, quasi-static suspensions to muscular, aggressive effusions. And quite apart from any of this, they all sound completely gorgeous. Only superlatives are adequate in situations like this: this is simply some of the most jaw-droppingly fabulous electronic music I’ve ever heard.