Various Artists

Spire: Organ Works Past Present & Future

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A tribute to, analysis, and desacralization of the church organ, Spire features sound art, experimental electronica, ambient and phonography pieces, all revolving around the mammoth instrument. Some of the pieces were written for the organ (and performed by Charles Matthews at St. Mary's Church in Warwick, England), most have been constructed using organ samples or recordings of organ music, while a few are actually field recordings and sound art pieces following the principle of the organ pipe. Disc One has a certain majesty to it. Leif Elggren's "Royal Organ" puts the subject of this compilation under the spotlight right from the start. Z'ev's sample-based piece for 12 hands also explores the grandiosity of the instrument's sound, but the best tracks are those taking an oblique path. Philip Jeck's short "Stops" is more Jeck than organ; Fennesz's collaboration with Scott Minor is also more Fennesz than pipe, and his most convincing track released during the long Endless Summer/Venice interim. Biosphere and Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson have contributed interesting pieces, but the highlight of Disc One is Toshiya Tsunoda's ten-minute "Layered," consisting of close recordings of wind passing through pipes, beautifully rearranged. Disc Two is of a different nature, focusing on drones and rarely evoking the church organ at all. Clocking in at 30 minutes, "Breathe," by BJ Nilsen (aka Hazard) is by far the longest piece on the album. Slowly unfolding, it consists of manipulations of church organ tones and takes the form of a quiet, minimalistic soundscape. The piece exerts some fascination at first, but loses its appeal too early. Oren Ambarchi and Tom Recchion's "Remake" is the only track that was previously available (as a 7" released by Idea in 2003). Guitar and Hammond organ may be too big a leap from the topic, but the piece provides a beautiful moment, capped by a wind-dominated soundwalk by Chris Watson. Followers of the Touch roster will find several familiar names on this album, which may make Spire worth the price of admission.

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