Tod Dockstader

Aerial #1

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This project has spent a long time in the works and will take a long time to release -- or so it seems. In his notes to Vol. 1 of his Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music (where the opening piece of this opening set was first released), Sub Rosa owner Guy Marc Hinant hints at a cycle of 120 pieces that could amount to 24 hours of music. Tod Dockstader, in his notes to Aerial #1, points out that he has selected 59 best pieces for the three-CD series that begins with this album (which is sold in a cardboard box filled with two empty jewel cases to be replaced with the other volumes as they come out and are purchased). Aerial's concept revolves around the sounds heard between stations on shortwave radio -- static, echoes, ghost waves, and the occasional line of Morse code out of nowhere. The composer has chosen to treat and assemble these sounds into long, highly delicate, immersive drones -- to "play the radio," literally. The 15 pieces on Aerial #1 form a seguing, uninterrupted 78-minute sequence that takes the listener on a gentle yet eventful journey. Several sound artists have tackled this topic before, but Dockstader has an unparalleled knack for sculpting sound sources into natural-sounding, larger-than-life music. The opening "Song" is an alluring call to dive into the whole project: it presents the sound matter and atmosphere of the source material, then starts to transform it into a strangely familiar aural soundscape that has a singing quality to it. Each subsequent track offers a different angle, often revealed by its title, like "Rumble," "Raga" (surprisingly effective), "Harbor," and the disquieting "Pulse." The result appears simple and establishes an immediate rapport with the listener, as long as the latter is willing to be carried on the airwaves (which, incidentally, bring one very close to the composer's brain waves). Definitely one of the best electro-acoustic albums of 2005.

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