Various Artists - Adventures in sound [El records - 2009]
Adventures in sound is a rather splendid compilation that focus in on early electronic & Electro-Acoustic composition, musique concrète, and avant garde composition. Collecting together tracks from: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry and Edgard Varèse. Making this an highly enjoyable, varied primer and introduction to these old avant-garde masters
The first five tracks are taken up by a suite of early Pierre Schaeffer tracks from 1948 entitled Cinq études de bruits (Five Studies of Noises) - they are five rather wonderful, lively and fun slices of musique concrete that take in: train sounds, all manner of comic crashers and bangs, stuck and cut-up easy listening, piano music and all manner of looped foreign voices and vocal sounds, vinyl grain etc. The suite shifts from been quirky, noisy to jerkily elegant and like the best work on offer here hardly sounds dated. Next we have three tracks by Karlheinz Stockhausen; the first two tracks entitled Studie Nr. 1 and Nr.2 consist of a series of early electro tones and pitch runs that speed up, slow down and bob along in electro vibe like form- it’s interesting but not very exciting to sit through. The third track Gesang der Jünglinge(Song of Youths) is more rewarding and clever taking in manipulated Swedish choir voices, shifting electro bubbles and organ drone cut-ups.
Then we’re onto two Iannis Xenakis tracks from around 1957 to 58; first up is the track Diomorphoses which takes in accelerating rocket like rubbles and noises before going into ear smarting tone wavering and bangs ‘n’ crashing sound soup- which is all suitable brain warping. Then we have Concret PH which is a rather wonderfully edgy and noisy track taking in a dense yet appealing sound forest of tinkling and breaking glass tones. Then we have one track by Edgard Varèse from 1958 entitled Poème électronique which is built around a series of twisting and turning electronic tones, dwells and bends –again it’s quite quirky and rewarding and at times very noisy. Then lastly we have a lengthy 15 minute track from Pierre Henry from 1953 entitled Veil of Orpheus. The first half of the track starts out rather haunted yet active shifting sound smog of stretched choirs, electro tone dwell and choral haze. Then mid-way through all manner of ominous, strange and weird vocal samples and cut-ups are added into the sound stew, making the track a great end to a near faultless compilation.
The album also comes with a 12 page booklet full of early pictures of Stockhausen, Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry and Edgard Varese in often crazed sonic scientist mode and an interesting piece about the four artists work. All in all a very worthwhile compilation that will be of interesting to anyone interested in any form of experimental or avant-garde music.Roger Batty