Dropp Ensemble

The Empire Builders

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Recorded to accompany the play The Empire Builders (original title: Les Bâtisseurs d'Empires) by French absurdist Boris Vian, this album is, first and foremost, the work of two Chicago improvisers, Sam Dellaria and Adam Sonderberg. The Dropp Ensemble is a virtual group. Dellaria and Sonderberg asked like-minded experimental musicians from various points of the world to send in raw material. They selected, manipulated, and assembled the tapes to improvise over. Austrian bass clarinetist Wolfgang Fuchs, French field recordist Eric La Casa, and Australian guitar soundscapist Brendan Walls are among those who played the game, but their contributions cannot really be singled out. The goal was to create a whole different from its parts, and the two artists reached that goal. The music hovers halfway between instrument-based improvisation, and textural sound art, actually blurring the line between the two. The "Introduction" (27 minutes long, more than half of the disc) begins with delicate cymbal rolls and delicate droning sounds. It slowly builds up with the addition of clarinet, percussion, and electronics, but remains extremely slow-paced, Butoh-like. "Grå" presents three short tableaux of soft noise. "Dessutom" pairs a blurry field recording (rain?) with soft sub-bass explosions echoing in the distance -- a 15-minute finale that may not retain all of its meaning without the play it was created for. That said, and despite its low decibel range and slow pace, The Empire Builders exerts a fascination attentive listeners will surely feel. It ranks among Sonderberg and Dellaria's most puzzling creations.

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