The crux of Carl Stone’s inventiveness lies in the coexistence of recognizable and (apparently) alien features. As one of the foremost electroacoustic composers of the last decades, Stone might have been tempted by the vacuous appeal of impregnable elaboration. Namely, erasing the comprehension factor altogether in favor of abstruse frameworks and labyrinthine conceptions. Instead, an extraordinary ability to detail processes and their reverse while keeping the listener involved (and, more often than not, enraptured) is what distinguishes the man’s output, placing the large part of his creatures in a class of their own. Reiterative acousmatics, anyone?
This triple LP is a treasure trove of previously unreleased materials; the lone exception is the ever-touching “Shing Kee”, originally published in 1989 on Four Pieces (EAM Discs) and to this day a huge favorite of mine. “Sukothai” is a multiplication of fragments from a Henry Purcell rondo progressively turning into a bewildering swarm of harpsichords. It gets further remodeled, thickened and stretched to double length in “Unthaitled”, a bonus track only available digitally.
“Dong Il Jang” and “Shibucho” utilize snippets of most everything from Japanese folk to Motown classics. Only the elapsing of time permits to acquire familiarity with what, at the beginning, was just a buzzing drone or a collage of frantic vocalizations shaped by bizarre formants and plosive traits. It’s a monstrous patchwork of lyophilized components gradually restoring a wholeness much simpler to understand than we believed. Even the most focused audiences are going to reel in a state of sensory dizziness.
On a similar wavelength, but largely typified by environmental scents born from looped field recordings, “Kuk Il Kwan” is perhaps the record’s highlight. Slightly edited by Stone for technical reasons, these 28+ minutes derive from live performances with machines and resources that were certainly more difficult to control than today’s laptops. The resulting substance is profoundly human and utterly beautiful.
“LIM” and “Chao Praya” are different from the rest, in that they were realized on the Buchla synthesizer. The conjunction of soothing frequencies and nerve-numbing upper partials engenders sonorities escorting us towards out-and-out trance. Conceived from 1973 to 1974, they are unquestionably connected to Eliane Radigue’s early experiments on the same instrument. The virtual trait d’union here is Morton Subotnick, who in 1970 had installed a Buchla at New York University (where young Radigue began to practice her craft) and was also one of Stone’s teachers at CalArts a few years later.
Amidst the usual plethora of misspelled names, wrong titles, bourgeois anarchists and hyped nonentities, Wire put this edition as #1 in the archive releases of 2016. This time I have to heartily agree: get a copy pronto, no questions allowed.