Recorded in mid-2001 and released before the end of the year, Variations is a beautiful set of ambient electro-acoustic improv. The level of understanding between sampler artist Colin Andrew Sheffield and turntablist/guitarist James Eck Rippie commands respect. The LP (a limited edition of 400 copies on Elevator Bath) is comprised of three pieces, each one using samples from a specific instrument. The oddest and most striking, "Variations for Harp," occupies all of side one. The angelic notes sound surprisingly within the context of the evolving glitch loop, which provides the foundation. Soft transformations keep the piece from remaining static, but it does get a bit overlong at 17 minutes. Nevertheless, the sound of the harp, which sometimes twangs like a koto (is it naturally occurring or the result of electronic manipulation?), takes the listener into another dimension. One thinks of Fennesz's early live material, but also of stylists like Ekkehard Ehlers, Hazard, or even Oren Ambarchi. "Variations for Guitar" is more sparse and haunted by Rippie's backward notes. "Variations for Flute (Excerpt)" hovers on the threshold of perception. This is by far Sheffield's most convincing statement to date. Recommended.
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