Astraea Ensemble / Miles Anderson

Astraea

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One might mistake this 2020 album on M├ętier as contemporary music, but its origins extend back to the height of the avant-garde in 1975 when the Astraea Ensemble was formed by composers Sofia Gubaidulina, Viktor Suslin, and Vyacheslav Artyomov, who improvised on Eastern folk instruments in these visionary recordings. Heard from two vantage points, Astraea employed exotic percussion and pitched instruments in their experiments in raw sonorities, as in Archipelagos of Sounds in the Ocean of Time (1977), woven together in various combinations with electronic sounds as abstract studies of rhythm and color. Another take is the otherworldly or mystical nature of the soundscapes, particularly the electronically modified Death Valley (1988), which, with its distant tones and steadily pulsing bass, is perhaps the most haunting track of the disc, aided by trombonist Miles Anderson's eerie melodic fragments. Between them is the diaphanous Dolcissimo (1980), an electroacoustic piece that seemingly bridges the first and third tracks by combining elements from both in a free fantasy utilizing all the group's resources. This is Astraea's sole recording, and for decades, it was only available in Russia, so this digitally mastered release receives its world premiere here, making this rarity available to all adventurous listeners.

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