Stefan Prins

Fremdkörper

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Opening the gatefold cover of this two-disc package, you are immediately confronted with the following, very discouraging annotation: "In his compositional work, Prins seeks to critique received convention, to break the framework of the usual, and dispose of aesthetic axioms." This kind of language is discouraging for a very simple reason: it is entirely possible to accomplish all of those goals by means of utterly crap music. And in fact, the opening track (one of three numbered pieces all titled "Fremdkörper") does lead one to expect the worst; it's a grim pastiche of grey and guttural noises that fails to take advantage of the textural and timbral possibilities offered by the instrumentation of cello, flute, electric guitar, percussion, and live electronics. But then things get noticeably better: with "Erosie (Memory Space No. 1)," Prins treats the viola mostly as a percussion instrument, while having the accordion produce pointillistic pitches. The textures are dry and spare, and overall quite lovely. "Infiltrationen," for electric guitar quartet and live electronics, offers plenty of fascinating sound sculpting, while the excellent "Not I," for electric guitar and live electronics, burbles, mutters, and percolates; a single two-note chord occasionally bleeps its blended pitch out of the pile of musical scree, and then a slow tidal wave of sound emerges and develops nicely over the course of almost 20 minutes. Other compositions are spottier: "Ensuite," for cello solo, alternates taps, crunches, bowed tones, and silences in a very sonically attractive way, but seems to be stretching a small amount of musical content into a very long and thin string. The col legno battuto sections are especially interesting; more of that material would have been nice. (There's a long section during which the cello sounds like a slowly revving motorcycle, which is slightly and probably unintentionally hilarious.) Given the two-for-one pricing of this set, its unevenness is easy to forgive, especially since the high points are so impressive.

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