Fear No Music

Shaun Naidoo: Electric Fences

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Understanding the aesthetics and expressions of Shaun Naidoo's works on Electric Fences, his 2005 Capstone disc, requires considerable patience and tolerance because his music is thoroughly eclectic, strangely meandering, frustratingly teasing, and peculiarly resistant to comprehension. It seems that Naidoo treats styles as things to borrow, then discard, and musical ideas as snippets to string together, not develop; one supposes his intention is to allow for maximum artistic liberty, and to create the impression that Move Your Shadow (2001) is as daring, freewheeling, and groundbreaking as the group that plays it, the Fear No Music ensemble. Yet the end results of Naidoo's experimentation are hardly impressive, and the succession of funky bass lines, disjointed electronic episodes, free jazz riffing, fractured classical references, flailing gestures, and repeated patterns lead the listener down too many promising paths, only to find that the piece as a whole is a postmodern cul-de-sac. The resources at Naidoo's disposal must have been tempting, for the musicians have conventional instruments and multiple synthesizers at their disposal; furthermore, Fear No Music's phenomenal capabilities give this performance a virtuosity that makes one wonder just how much of the piece was pre-composed and how much was improvised. Electric Fences for violin, cello, and electronics (1999) feels tighter and less like a chain of ill-matched fragments; yet this 10-minute composition seems almost like an afterthought, following the rambling Move Your Shadow, which is four times as long. But even this brief work may take several hearings to appreciate it, as well as a special liking for grating multi-stops and electronic borborygmus. Capstone's sound is transparent and naturally resonant.

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