Alvin Curran

Toto Angelica

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AllMusic Review by

At the turn of the millennium, Alvin Curran developed a number of projects around the idea of sampling the recorded history of new music festivals to create large-scale tribute works. Toto Angelica belongs to this series, although the music included here has gone a long way from Curran's performance of it at the tenth edition of the Angelica Festival, in 2001. The performance went wrong and Curran's setup (a sampling keyboard and a laptop computer) crashed in mid-set. "Toto Angelica -- Live Concert Performance" is as close as listeners get to the original piece: an edited recording, with the computer crash moved up front, so that the piece begins with a robotic voice stating "It's not my fault" and the trademark chime of an Apple computer booting. The piece is a collage of myriads of sound sources, including lots of vocalists and instrumentalists who once played at the Bolognese festival (Phil Minton and Mike Patton are largely featured), but also animal sounds and snippets of unrelated music (Spike Jones and Carl Stalling coming back often). Half patchwork, half kaleidoscope, the music is dizzying and progresses in leaps and bounces, with sudden moments of silence startling the listener. The work is crude, disconcerting, and very hard to rationalize -- it's better to accept it for what it is and let one's self be flooded and overloaded by the information. The other pieces on the disc are more polished, starting with "It's Not My Fault," an extensive remix by Massimo Simonini of the Angelica performance. Simonini focuses on the electronic and electro-acoustic elements of the piece, releasing the pedal on the fast-paced collaging. The piece flows more naturally and features Shelley Hirsch more extensively. Following these two 25-minute works are seven shorter pieces recorded later at Curran's home studio, with live processing by Domenico Sciajno. These focus on different material (still related to the festival) and make clearer musical statements. Toto Angelica is not a restful listen by any means, and it often threatens to tumble into a random hodgepodge, but it has its interesting moments. But this is far from Curran's best work.

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