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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Ori Barel - Alkaline River [Unseen Worlds - 2023]

Is pastiche something learned, or is it evidence of learning’s failure? It might be an odd question to ask, but there is no avoiding the “p” word when it comes to Ori Barel’s sweeping historical mash-up (is the moniker already old hat?), Alkaline River, in which literally every formal device and source material from the world of electroacoustic music from the last thirty years makes an appearance. From early synths to field recordings and even sitars on the aptly named “Butterflies”, all is readily available and is put to use, whether that is good use or not depends on your relation to the curtain of irony behind which Barel seems intent on playing.

Barel is far too trained (PhD) in the finer arts of composition for anyone to assume this is all accidental, or just messing around at the amateur hour. This line of inquiry will get us nowhere. Instead, the haunting and perhaps truly ludic question is for whom this pastiche of styles, genres, and techniques is ultimately intended? With the airy circularity of the album’s concluding work, “Replica”, there can be little assurance that we, the listeners, are not being had. I, for one, welcome the opportunity to delight in Barel’s purposeful deskilling and historical bric-a-brac, but the pleasure is short lived, as it should be. Like those of us who love the horror genre of movie making, it is only fun while we watch – no pretense to aesthetic fulfillment or transcendent states of experience. This is Alkaline River’s reward, and that is just fine by me.
 
For fans of electroacoustic, instrumental improvisation that sounds like the Kronos Quartet on amphetamines, this is a ride you’ll be sure to enjoy. To  dig in

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

Colin Lang
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