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Saturday, 18 June 2011

Frederik Croene and Esther Venrooy - 'Hout' (Robo)

I don't know who these Dutch experimentalists are but this CD is a great exploration of electroacoustic space, built around intense miniature interactions. There's a lot of acoustics - piano (played by Croene) is the dominant instrument, but there are plucked and bowed strings, metallic resonances, and occasional field recordings and vocal samples. There's a stop-start jerkiness that keeps this lively, avoiding AMM-soup while retaining a delicate balance. At times, Venrooy's computer processing takes over and the pieces feel overly worked-on, but nothing lasts too long (the 11 pieces, with confusing two-column titles, make this "classic album length"). The movie dialogue samples are the nadir of this, just because it doesn't make thematic sense with the dancing prepared piano sounds. I'm more of a fan of Hout when the musicians actually feel things and respond to each other, even if I know this to be layered studio work instead of live improvisation. There's a lot of reversed/backwards tonalities - echoes that fold in on themselves, and ringing tones that seem to disintegrate instantly. They know when to hold a note and let the soundwaves reverberate. It's slightly academic, yeah, but has a spontaneity despite being delicate and (mostly) quiet. The final/epic track, 'Pine::Lodge', gets more built-up in terms of white noise/hiss than anything else, eventually opening into a shining bolt of what sounds like zither strings (though I assume is just piano, processed in some way). It rises and falls majestically; the focus and craft of these two is most apparent here on the juxtaposition between echoing room-sound and thick electronic density. You'll never get me to say anything should be on CD instead of LP, but this is definite "CD" music - a sadly obscure treasure from the world of electroacoustic composition.

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