Decibel – Cat Hope: flute, alto flute, organ; Lindsay Vickery: saxophone, organ, MaxMSP programming; Stuart James: piano, organ; Malcolm Riddoch: electronic playback, MaxMSP performance, organ
An intriguing excursion across Lucier’s archives, comprising four compositions performed by an Australian unit previously unknown to me; only one – “Ever Present” – had already been recorded. Let’s start from what I appreciated the least – though it remains an interesting concept overall – namely “Carbon Copies” (ironically, the album’s lengthiest chapter). In this 18-minute score, the players are requested to mix with first, and to imitate by memory later, an audio transcription of the environmental occurrences they’re surrounded by in a specific moment (the actual tape opens the track). These ears have gulped down an awful lot of releases based on field recordings in the last decade-plus, and perhaps have grown a bit tired of warmly greeting urban echoes and people doing something more or less ordinary. Thus I stood reasonably uninfluenced by this concoction of natural pitches and repercussions from realness in spite of the composer’s noble intent, that’s to say an improved relation – by means of instrumental simulation – with what encompasses us.
Prior to that, the aforesaid “Ever Present” had opened the disc with the “standard” magic of Lucier’s music, instruments and sine waves intersecting praiseworthily to create those renowned oscillating patterns in accordance with our movement in a room. The very best comes in the remaining two episodes. “Hands” is supported by church organ clusters played while members of the ensemble alter the shapes of the tones by manipulating the pipes; the consequence is a fascinating, slowly evolving ritual whose not-exactly-peaceful nature contrasts a tad with the picture of a huge crowd of jubilant children emitting discordant notes with plastic recorders appearing in this writer’s mind at one point. “Shelter” utilizes contact microphones on the various parts of a building (a conservatorium, in fact) so that both the inside and the outside sounds weigh the same in terms of faraway imagery constructed upon fairly indistinct frequencies. The acoustic ectoplasm of practicing instrumentalists adds a touch of enchantment to a representation that seems to connect aspects of different phases of human activity and, pushing the imagination, epochs.