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John Cage - Variations VII [Epicentre Editions - 2021]

Variations VII is a John Cage composition, that utilizers shifting 'n' layered blends of radio banter/ song snippets, phone call audio, and all manner of sonic flotsam and jetsam, with more subtly electro- noise tones coming into play at points. It’s certainly not for those looking for structured/ logic soundscaping, but if you after something that’s eventful, unpredictable and later quite chaotic in its unfold- this will certainly appeal.

This release comes in the form of a CD, and is the first release from new label Epicentre Editions- with those behind it been involved with the promotion of contemporary music, written or improvised, in the rural areas of central France for the last fifteen years or so. I’m reviewing a digital promo of the release- so can’t really comment on the CD, but as far as I can gather it comes with a booklet detailing the composition and this recording of it.

Variations VII was created by John Cage in 1966- and was originally performed at a special event in NYC between the 13th to 23rd October. It featured a team of sound engineers, led by Billy Klüver, who utilized sound sources only present/ created at the time of performance- these were picked up via communication bands, telephone lines, and microphones linked to a variety of household appliances, and frequency generators. 

This version of the composition was recorded in 15th August 2020 as part of the 8th edition of Le Bruit de la Musique festival at Domeyrot (Creuse). It featured six artists at the event, a sound engineer, and seventeen others participated remotely. The work on this CD is broken up into three tracks- two shorter around a few minutes track bookend the centrally track that rolls in around the one hour and eighteen-minute mark. The track shifts and blurs through French radio chatter, French conversion snippets, sudden darts of music, waving siren waves drifts ,electro-acoustic swirls and ebbs, sudden and shifting household appliances sound-making, and pretty much whatever they fancy.

The whole thing has a wonderful snaking & deeply unpredictable quality about it- with each minute finding new and devise sound elements appear, blending, then disappearing- to maybe reappear down the line again or disappear for good. I must say I rather enjoyed the loose/ drifting quality of the whole work, and you really don’t know what you’ll come across. Though it never drifts into aimless or drably abstraction- remaining both oddly appealing and rewarding overwhelming in it’s morphing/ drifting flow.

So if you like very lose-yet-eventful sound art- this will be something you’ll be needing to track down.  I do look forward to seeing what the labels out down the line...and to pick this up direct or  find out more about the label head here

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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