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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Tod Dockstader - 'Water Music' / 'Two Moons' / 'Quatermass' (Starkland)

Though we've already done Quatermass on vinyl, this CD's a must-have for the other two pieces. 'Water Music' is about 18 minutes of tape manipulations, built up from recordings of kitchen sinks, splahses, and other such liquid sources. It's what you'd expect from a brilliant electro-acoustic composer working in 1963; a purity of tone, a frantic sense of layered motion, and a truly otherwordly angle. It's the earliest piece on this CD and in some ways my favourite, capturing that "early electronic" sound that is the sound of pure experimentation - a treasure to behold. It builds up slowly, with sparse plinks and plunks before laying down an evasive, electronic bottom.  By the end of its fourth part, it's pushed into deep brain cavities and rooted about, yet somehow retained its sense of natural beauty. But it closes on some spirited, rapid movement that redefines the idea of 'liquid'. And then 'Two Moons of Quatermass' is in the middle, clearly a companion to his more famous work and brief in about 9 minutes, split into two parts - like a 7" teaser to accompany the LP. Like the more famous work this is built from, this gets into dark, dissonant geography with a playful lilt. The big crashing gongs of Quatermass are only hinted at, but then thankfully this CD gets to the real thing a few minutes later, which in digital form, has a clarity that is pleasing but a brittle, sterile aftertaste. I'll take my battered 60's LP version over this any day, but that's not going to surprise anyone who actually knows me.

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