At first, State of the Union was an LP released in 1982 on Zoar. Produced by Elliott Sharp, it presented short pieces by a wide array of avant-garde artists. Since then, he has released more compilations sporadically. State of the Union 2.001 came out in 2001 on EMF. Still curated by Sharp, it is the biggest set yet: three CDs, 171 minutes of music, 171 cuts by as many artists. While previous albums showed an attempt at putting together a listener-oriented track order, these time pieces have been put in alphabetical order of the artist's first name -- with an admonition to "play on random shuffle." It's probably better that way: Such an extensive catalog of current experimental music research can only lead to improbable segues and clashes -- it might as well be the CD player's fault! Because of alphabetical haphazards, disc two turns out to be the more consistent and "star-studded": Fred Frith, Hans Tammen, Henry Kaiser, Joey Baron, Jon Rose, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Marc Ribot, and Matthew Shipp are only a handful of the represented artists -- but where are Rafael Toral, John Oswald, and the people from Ambiances Magnétiques and Avatar? You will find familiar names and sonic signatures, and discover a truckload of new artists. Now, one minute is just too short to get a good idea of an artist's talent or musical vision -- especially when lost amidst a sea of tracks -- but it's enough to entice. Sadly, the package doesn't include biographies (however short), contact addresses, and such. At least, a supporting website would have been a nice complement. For anyone interested in getting to know deeper the field of avant-garde music, State of the Union 2.001 is a must, even though you will get lost and feel overwhelmed.
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