Philip Samartzis

Mort aux Vaches

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Australian composer/improviser Philip Samartzis works with massed numbers of prerecorded sounds and field recordings, sometimes electronically processed, which he deploys in live improvisations using multiple playback machines. The scope of the territory covered is certainly enormous, but all that would be beside the point were Samartzis not able to pull together the disparate strands into a convincing, if often counterintuitive, whole. What makes Mort aux Vaches so convincing (all of the releases in this series, by various artists, are titled "Mort aux Vaches," incidentally) is that the sounds utilized are both fascinating in and of themselves and that they do indeed cohere into an unforced matrix, a structure as stable as it is alive. The first track, "Variable Resistance," utilizes high-pitched, clicking sounds along with brush-like washes to create the ambience of a dense insectile cloud, one that is entirely absorbing. When, toward the end of the piece, shouts and unidentifiable pounding suddenly leap in and out of the mix, it's giddily disorienting. "Deconstructed Windmills" begins with an investigation of deep, ringing drones before emerging briefly into a marvelous, carillon-like soundscape and then settling into an array of high and low flutters. The final and longest piece, "Soft and Loud," is also the most territorially ambitious, diving headlong from pachinko parlors into rushing water, from harsh slabs of dense orchestral works to sliced 'n' diced guitar rock. Difficult to describe other than to use shopworn descriptions like "kaleidoscopic," it's a rich, ever-surprising stew that will strongly appeal to any devotee of tape collage, musique concrète, or contemporary electro-acoustic improvisation. Highly recommended.