When Gordon Mumma created the four electronic works on this 2005 release from New World Records, he intended them for much different purposes than home listening. The original public, presentational uses of Megaton for Wm. Burroughs (1964, recorded with live performers at the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor), Conspiracy 8 (1970), Cybersonic Cantilevers (1973), and Cirqualz (1980) help to explain their opaque, wall-of-sound, background music quality and generally static movement; yet as projects of the avant-garde, the theatrical aspects of these pieces are now mostly of historical interest, and rather less helpful to someone exploring the music on CD. Mumma's music tends to throb and pulse in broad sheets of sound that run for several minutes, and his complex layers of electronic sounds and voices can be quite dense, perhaps too thick at times for easy aural sorting. Without attendant visuals or actions, though, the listener must rely on the booklet's notes to imagine the pieces' events, and to understand something of their social criticism and other points that would have been obvious in context. While Mumma's electronic music is bracing and even exciting at times for its audacity, and a bit nostalgic for fans of the counterculture, it is an acquired taste and not recommended for any but the most ardent fans of electronica and musique concrète.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson