Review

Ingvar Loco Nordin, Sonoloco Record Reviews, April 15, 2001

There is a new sophistication apparent in the brand new scoop of electroacoustics coming out of Britain — and from elsewhere too… That is plain to hear on a series of new releases from Canadian guru label empreintes DIGITALes, featuring three British sound wizards with already very famous names. This time we listen to Adrian Moore’s CD Traces.

The sophistication reveals itself in that it now clearly is composition and absolutely nothing else that kicks electronic ventures sky high! A few years ago I was worried that all the new, easily obtained machinery and software would dilute the traditionally highly intoxicating electroacoustic beverage, which it also did, momentarily, but these days my worries are gone, blown away by some of the best stuff I’ve heard in decades from the shamans of electroacoustics.

This means that the guys and dolls who mistook the machinery for the art now either have learned their lesson, or left the stage… The CDs I’ve received in recent months from labels in Sweden, France, Russia, Romania, Holland, Canada and other countries prove to be excellent productions. These artists master their software and hardware to such a degree that no machinery in the world can get in between them and the end result: the sounding work of art. These people are composers — again! — with compositional skills. The detour through the junkyards of binary tools is over. We’re back in business, and the composers are composers again. They are electroacoustic composers, using their machines and gadgets, but the driving force is imagination and visionary thinking — and intuition! — paired with an edgy compositional skill; and so the machines can be wonderful tools. This is what has happened as this sophistication has set in, and here we are with some highly tremendous stuff.

Adrian Moore is one of these sophisticated wizards, balancing his compositional act on an array of hard drives filled with shamanistic software… but he lets his imagination seep down like honey through the imaginary netherworlds of the binaries, and in the process he evolves and refines images and impulses originating in a French tradition projected by people like Jean Schwarz, Bernard Parmegiani, François Bayle and others, not least the French-Canadian Maestro Françis Dhomont — and I’m talking about the earlier, analog groundbreaking actions of these guys (they’re still very active!), when they pushed the poetic and fairytale-like sound worlds of their inner visions to the forefront of electroacoustics.

I’m not precisely new to Adrian Moore. I think the first piece I heard of his was Breaking… Glass! (1991), which was broadcast on Swedish radio in 1993, when a program (FIX) specializing in electroacoustic music ran a series on works coming out of the studio of the University of Birmingham (associated with the organization BEAST; The Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre). His Sieve (1994-1995) — presented here — was also originally found on a CD from the 4th Prix International Noroit Leonce-Petitot 1995 de Composition Musicale Acousmatique.

Moore was introduced to electroacoustics at a concert with Denis Smalley in Nottingham. Later he studied with Jonty Harrison, and fate (?) has it that the three CDs with British composers that recently were released by empreintes DIGITALes feature these three sound painters.

The first piece on Moore’s CD is Junky (1996). The sounds are extremely delicate, measured down to the most miniscule fraction of a slice, slashing through space in your senses like samurai swords… After a short while this frantic impression gives way to an otherworldly feeling of austere detachment, complete alienation, as if you were experiencing a spill-over from another dimension — a dimension of the utmost excommunication, as might be experienced by space travelers cut off from Earth by some disaster or other at the shores of foreign worlds… or by a father seeing his children disappear in an ugly divorce, or rather the calm feelings of resigned despair that follows, when you just sort of watch the horrid circumstances like a work of art at a dazed afternoon exhibition or like a movie late one rainy spring… There is a mental “Entfremdung” in the music, like you were hearing it through the locked and barred windows of an insane asylum…

This music could also be a story told about events unimaginable by human Earthlings, tenderly told in this sound language, conveying feelings of something completely lost, like the introverted, calm despair of an alienated existence, extra-dimensional, far beyond the force of binary circuits, far beyond the illusion of Time, wrangling through the mineral world, which is a lonely place without points of reference — like the more frightful stages of the Bardo Thödol — or like a memory long lost in an overwhelming amnesia, in which just the gestures of meaning remain. It’s a very beautiful music…

Dreamarena (1996) is the second entry. This piece too is very imaginative, spatial, inducing all kinds of weird feelings of a kind of alienation, but this time as if you were transferred to a kind of insect perspective… You feel an intense communication going on here, but you can’t tell between what kind of creatures — or if indeed the morphemes that sweep past, back and forth in your listening space, between your temples, are a kind of human communication that you just don’t understand, as if you’ve suffered a stroke and woken up in utter aphasia… The music is frustratingly communicative, but unintelligible to you, though apparently not to the alien intelligences — if they are… — who really do exchange frantic messages right through your brain… You can only sense the bare gestures of communication… or is it a communication beyond language itself? Could it be the thoughts of angels, the thoughts of spirits, that you’re tapping into, breaking all the laws, inducing the wrath of God? You were not supposed to hear… in the same manner that you were not supposed to tap into the core of Existence by tampering with genetic codes… The Tower of Babylon again!

Or could these sounds be sonic representations of the insects’ communication by pheromones, across the vast summer meadows of an eternal June? For sure this communication has a magic quality, a surreal aspect, in the same way that the world would look very different if we suddenly could perceive other wavelengths of light than the limited spectra we usually can see.

Study in Ink (1997) is a completely delightful little obsession! Adrian Moore has reached down into his pocket and got his whiteboard marker pen out, indispensable to anybody having to make presentations to boards of trustees or any other congregation of the 21st century… He uses the sounds the marker makes on the whiteboard in such imaginative ways that you can’t but smile… This singular-origin-sound business sometimes can be really elating, as in the case of Jonty Harrison’s Hot Air (1995) — also on empreintes DIGITALes; IMED 9627; Harrison’s first release on the label — in which a great deal of the sounding result stems from children’s balloons, or like in the very classical case of Pierre Henry’s rusty barn door in Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir (1963). Adrian Moore develops his sampling and manipulation of this darn marker pen’s frictional passages across the whiteboard to the extent that the sounds revealed push your associations in the direction of David Dunn’s magnificent hydrophonic recordings of the intricate sounds of underwater insects of North American and African freshwater ponds; Chaos & the Emergent Mind of the Pond (What Next WN 009). It’s amazing how much these completely different approaches — hydrophones in African ponds versus marker pens on British whiteboards — can resemble each other! The adventure is endless!

Foil-Counterfoil (1997) involves — of course — tin foil, closely recorded to reveal hidden sounds, but also utilizes the sounds of glasses, bottles, balloons etcetera. The effect is dizzying at times, in its innovative, controlled madness, where Moore has to use all his power of will not to go completely berserk in the sonic shop of his mind! You name it, we like it! Moore’s music involves so many qualities, but movement — the spatial aspect — is always very apparent, as is an uncanny feel for alien beauty and ominous auditive backdrops, in a therapeutical kind of fashion, as if you were present at the core of a schizophrenia session with Ronald D Laing or a spirit-on-reel-to-reel meeting with almost forgotten Friedrich Jürgenson.

The last piece is Sieve (1994-1995). This is the only piece on this set with a more obvious musique concrète leaning, since you can readily identify some sounds that — to begin with — are un-altered. The piece is very French, just picking up somewhere in the acousmatic tradition and taking it a bit further still. It is a wonderfully varied piece; a sort of variation on the moment, or variations on moments of reality, wrenched out of their natural passage-ways of causality, into the workshop of Adrian Moore, where the stolen moments are handled with binary pliers and deformed and re-shaped into lucid building-blocks for the composer’s almost metaphysical creation; Sieve .

Let’s congratulate Adrian Moore! This CD is a remarkable gift to the connoisseurs of contemporary sound-art, and constitutes a lasting contribution to art itself. Wonderful! Adventurous!

Wonderful! Adventurous!