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State of The Union 2.001

State of the Union 2.001, the new release from EA veteran Elliot Sharp, is about as strange a bowl of fruit as has ever come across my table. A 3-disc compilation dressed to look like a Sasha or Oakenfold set, it features 173 pieces (some complete, some clips) by 173 different artists. The only information provided is the bare minimum needed for promotion and the large, glaring, red instructions: play on random shuffle.

If one follows the instructions the effect is something like fruit salad. The styles represented in the set are wildly diverse, ranging anywhere from jazz, to acousmatic, to trip-hop, to spoken word. The effect of playing the CDs on random is like constructing a new path to traverse with each trip through the garden. One also feels the suggestion of a holistic construction. The set is a complete work in itself, not ‘just another compilation’. Separated, its parts do not equal its whole.

Though there are too many standouts to list, my particular favourites were the incredibly campy "Adelante de su Presencia", by C.D., a fun mix of Mexican folk and EA vocal processing, and Ikue Mori’s "If…", which seemed to be constructed entirely (or at least mostly) out of transformed wind chimes.

Unfortunately, the ideas behind State of the Union are slightly better than the actual experience. Though some of the pieces are excellent, and the process is always entertaining, most of the listening is rather dreary. More often than not, waiting for an interesting piece went through intolerably long stretches of bad alternative, free jazz, and poorly performed solo guitar.

A better selection could have made this project one of the more significant in recent music history.

State of the Union 2.001 was released under the EMF label (Electronic Music Foundation). All profits from the CD go to The National Coalition Against Censorship. Elliot Sharp is currently signed to EMF, whose releases include other notables as Trevor Wishart, and greats such as Iannis Xenakis and Hugh LeCaine.

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