Various Artists

Instruments [List]

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The dichotomy between acoustic and electronic instruments has become a convenient tool in music classification -- admitting such a dichotomy exists. This compilation album put together by the French left-field electronica label List proposes to look at how computer artists weave the input of "real" instruments into their music and how acoustic improvisers integrate electronics into their setups. The points of view are plural and presented without an attempt to structure them, letting the very variety of approaches illustrate how fragile the distinction is between the two categories. Prime movers on the Viennese experimental music scene, Werner Dafeldecker and Martin Siewert, combine double bass and electronics in a way that makes the bass hover in and out of focus. Janek Schaefer cheats a little bit: his acoustic instruments are sourced from records, but his contribution is nevertheless very interesting. Mitchell Akiyama and mou, lips! both multiply acoustic sources to create fully arranged pieces of slightly melancholy electronica (Akiyama's "Capsized Sigh and a Highjacked Smile" is a highlight). Günter Müller and the duo of Julien Tardieu and Benoît Courribet represent the electro-acoustic improv community. Müller's ten-minute piece uses only cymbals that are bowed, played with the hands, approached with a headphone, and digitally treated. As for the French duo, Tardieu's improvisation on cymbal is processed by Courribet in real time. Since its invention, the electric guitar has been the electro-acoustic instrument par excellence: Sébastien Roux and Hervé Boghossian propose two takes on processed guitar soundscapes. The album concludes with a piece of multi-tracked cello by Colleen, adding a post-rock touch to the set. The high average quality of the contributions and the varied palette of artists represented put Instruments above most compilations in its field.

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