British composer Gabriel Prokofiev is the grandson of Sergey, but he has made a name for himself based entirely on the merits of his own work. With feet firmly planted in both the classical and experimental rock worlds, he has developed an engaging synthesis that is smart about using sophisticated technology to create music that has an edge but is also immediately appealing. Import/Export: Suite for Global Junk is overtly political, an indictment of the world's addiction to products that generate huge amounts of waste, specifically oil, anything packaged in plastic or glass, and anything shipped on wooden pallets. It's essentially an optimistic piece, though, a celebration of the ways people, particularly in Third World societies, have long recycled junk to make their music. Prokofiev uses only four sound sources -- oil drums, plastic bags, Fanta® bottles (full, then gradually emptied), and wooden pallets -- and inventively explores the variety of sonorities they can produce using hands, breath, and a few sticks and mallets. Much credit goes to percussionist Joby Burgess, who brings the instruments to life with terrific energy and playfulness. Employing live looping, Prokofiev creates rich, complex textures with multiple layers of ostinati. The CD is beautifully engineered, with sound that is clean and ideally resonant.
The set comes with a CD and a DVD of the piece. The best way to experience the music would be to first listen to the CD and be amazed by the incredible sounds that can be teased out of junk, and then watch the DVD to see just how it's done. The CD includes seven remixes by a variety of musicians. Among the most fun and unpredictable is Burgess' own "Just Drumming," in which a three-pitch melodic pattern with shifting rhythms but a steady pulse, played on an oil drum with the hands, is underlaid with a brittle, constantly evolving counter-rhythm, played on the edge of the drum with sticks. Trying to keep track of the relationship between the two lines is guaranteed to fry the brain. The performance on the DVD, a shorter version than the one on the CD, reveals Import/Export as a multimedia piece with a crucial visual element. Besides offering the pleasure of watching a virtuoso percussionist, the DVD showcases an effective video montage by Kathy Hinde that uses film clips of the industries that create the junk. The DVD also includes an interview with Prokofiev and Burgess and two funny/scary mid-20th century industrial documentaries extolling the glories and virtues of oil.