Released in 1998, The Catacombs of Yucatan groups four works by sound artist/instrumental sculptor Dan Senn. Most of the music heard here was created on homemade automated sculptures triggered by sub-audio pulses. The exception is the suite of short improvisations "Toons After Noon" where Senn works his bass shmoos himself, creating strange feedback motifs. "Hands off Coursing" and "Eight Ways to Fix a Windmill" feature the too flutter and the fayfer harp, two more acoustic instruments producing soft plucking and droning sounds. The latter's very short movements illustrate the instruments' various possibilities. But the highlight of this CD is the title piece. It was created following an installation at the Catacombs of Yucatan in 1995. This art space is located inside what once was an abandoned limestone cave. In the 1930s a promoter opened it up and transformed it into a short-lived dancehall. Senn's installation presented his instruments along with video footage of elders reminiscing about the place's previous vocation. "The Catacombs of Yucatan" organizes these testimonies into a multi-voiced narrative accompanied by other-worldly music from the sculptures. Therefore the piece stands somewhere between the sound sculpture music of Chas Smith and Maxime Rioux on one hand, and Randy Hostetler's work on narrative (Happily Ever After). Paradoxically, the story captures the listener's attention but it also diverts it from the music.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture