Various Artists

An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music: First A-Chronology 1921-2001

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Despite the fact that it culls pieces from various artists, the two-CD set An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music: First A-Chronology, Vol. 1 should appear under Guy Marc Hinant's name. The director of the label Sub Rosa offers here much more than a compilation album: it is a strongly assumed, personal look at the history of electronic and noise music. His approach, a-chronological and atypical, makes a thunderous statement for anti-compartmentalization. By blending classic tracks, forgotten gems, and fresh developments from all musical fronts ("serious"/academic music and "popular"), he encourages creative links, filiations, and in the end discussion. The album should be seen as a photograph of close to a century of music based on something else than acoustic instruments -- a photograph mediated by its photographer. The first five tracks work as an introduction to the early days, with Luigi Russolo, Walter Ruttman (his image-less film Wochende from 1930), Pierre Schaeffer, Henri Pousseur, and Gordon Mumma each representing a decade. After that, the listener travels between decades and genres. Highlights are numerous and include such genre-defining classics as Pousseur's "Scambi" and Edgard Varèse's "Poème Électronique," plus a mammoth, previously unreleased 30-minute piece by Pauline Oliveros and Sonic Youth's "Audience," a just-unearthed recording from 1983 in which the musicians turn the microphones toward the audience and treat this as input (it turns cheers into hysterical cow moos). For anyone tempted to point out missing key compositions, a second volume has been announced. The chosen methodology doesn't make the set easy to listen to, but it constitutes a stunning aural journey fueled by its own contradictions. For anyone interested in this kind of music (and its roots), it has the value of a treasure.

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