Erkki Kurenniemi

Äänityksiä: Recordings 1963-1973

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The Finnish composer Erkki Kurenniemi is one of those maverick figures of electronic music who always favored their public image of instrument builder and inventor instead of their musical side. Like Canadian keyboard inventor Hugh Le Caine, Kurenniemi has always argued that his compositions were nothing more than demonstration pieces for his unusual instruments (which include the four-in-one contraption "electronic quartet" and the DIMI-O, which transformed video signals into electronic music). With the exception of his "Antropoidien Tanssi" (or "Dance of the Anthropoids") -- included on a few compilation LPs and popularized when a snippet of it appeared on Wigwam's album Tombstone Valentime -- Kurenniemi's music remained largely unheard. This collection rights a wrong, unveiling a profoundly odd oeuvre that ranges from tape collage to noise art and proto-electronica. One can hear in "Sähkösoittimen Ääniä #1" (from 1971) the very conceptual birth of Pan Sonic. Recorded in 1963, "On -- Off" consists of 13 minutes of real-time tape manipulation in the electronic studio. A huge, loud drone engrossed by its own feedback, it needs to be put alongside Max Neuhaus' feedback realization of John Cage's "Fontana Mix" (see Fontana Mix: Feed) and Robert Ashley's early feedback studies (see The Wolfman). "Antropoidien Tanssi" and Bach's "Invention," despite their clear intention of reaching a larger public, are still much stranger (and interesting) than similar early Moog synthesizer recordings. The set ends on two tape collages: "Virsi" is a bland half- personal diary, half-unfocused freak-out, but "Mix Master Universe 2" offers a pleasingly strange suite of electronic improvisations shifting from sci-fi oddities to Stockhausen-inspired flights.

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