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Électro Clips

Electro clips -

I would just like to start off by stating that this CD is a really refreshing way of listening to electroacoustic music. I have listened to quite a few Electroacoustic CD compilations. Most of these discs are strange collections of eclectic composers that have little in common besides the medium of expression. They often slap together the annual compilation album as a means of justifying the existence of other wise insignificant electroacoustic artists. Screaming for promotion and distribution these composers compete for disc spots like car salesmen hanging onto their one CD per year sales quota. I suppose that, as electroacoustic artists, it is important to maintain a certain amount of presence by consistently competing for the pre-recorded convenience that marks or era of audience participation. This disc is very different in that it has an underlying theme (electro clip) that ties it all together. Electro clips is far beyond your typical EA compilation coaster. And here is why:

The concept of the album is to merge the popular song form of three-minute duration with the concept of the video clip. The disc presents a synthesis of new electroacoustic creation as it is practised in all its forms. Thus, offering an opportunity to visit and revisit some of North America’s most dynamic composers in a hyperrealistic, catchy, and pop music-like setting. Congratulations are to be extended to Jean-François Denis and Claude Schryer, the two artistic directors of empreintes DIGITALes who, in 1990, gambled on the short attention span of the public and commissioned three-minute pieces to 25 composers. These 25 electroacoustic snapshots are understood as being an extended composition where the fabrics of texture and space concentration allow the pieces to breathe. Electro clips holds together the necessary transitions between the often radically different compositional treatments and ideas, so lacking in other EA compilations.

The overall Packaging is well done. This is mainly contributed to Joanne Tremblay whose visual snap shots adorn both the cover and accompanying booklet. The inside booklet is numbered with loose pages for each selection: a black and white snapshot is on one side and information about the composer is on the other.

The CD opens with Style de bougalou (Bougalou-like), by Michel Smith. It features some very interesting whispers and baby sighs, juxtaposed with various instrumental samples. The texture is moulded around fun rhythms that gradually build into a climax possibly rivalled to a summer Hollywood blockbuster candy film. Craig Harris's Somewhere Between is a unique distribution of various sonically interesting piano processes. It reminds me of the structural use of prepared piano by John Cage, but using electroacoustic elements that hold the acoustic nature of the recording together. Short and sweet! John Oswald’s Bell Speeds, a sampled bell played at numerous octaves, contains an optimistic energy that is both stimulating and intriguing. It is structurally very simple; relying upon the beauty of the sonorities used provokes its straightforwardness. Yves Daoust's Mi bemol is an acousmatic composition whose multiple elements colliding in sequences create a well thought-out composition. It contains many soundscapes such as a fireworks display, rain, and thunder, all while juggling a metallic-bouncing ball. Nicely done. Claude Schryer creates an electro clip using acoustic ecology techniques (Les Oiseaux de Bullion). It is a soundscape where two dissimilar elements are connected; the first one represents a soundscape of the outskirts of a city with a funny sounding squeaking noise. It then transforms into a new soundscape of hiking where the hiker, out of breath, pauses to listen to the train whistle echo across the land around him. John Oliver's Marimba Dismembered is another great clip on the compilation. It is jam-packed full of sounds one could never have imagined to come from a marimba. Another clip that stands out from the CD is Zack Settles's Scweeit-Chupp. Humour, by its very nature, is complex, making it extremely difficult to convey in music. Very few compositions I have heard do this to the point of mastery like Settle. While on the topic of humour, it is only fitting to point out Humoresque 901534 by Bruno Degazio. This is an example of humour lost in a composition. I hear nothing even remotely funny in this piece. It is nice to listen too, but funny…. no. I hear it as incidental music, whose visual accompaniment was discarded somewhere along the path of its realisation. Perhaps one the best composition in this compilation is Bédé by Robert Normandeau. His compositions are typically complex and very interesting. This one is no exception, if anything it is too short. Prochaine Station by Christian Calon, is another soundscape composition on this CD. It is of a Metro station in Montreal, juxtaposed with other vocal elements and traffic sounds. I may be biased being a resident of Montreal, but Metro soundscape remain sonically close to my heart. No Electroacoustic compilation is complete without an instalment of a Hildegard Westerkamp composition. Breathing Room sits nicely in the CD. I don’t think it was intended to serves as an electro clip per se, but it definitely works here. Francis Dhomont contributes a piece to the collection as well. It stands out as a masterfully complex composition where levels of intensity collide amongst strange piano sounds and granular synthesised elements. It contains some French narration tying it all together. Dan Lander's contribution is I’m looking at my hand. It is charged with both meaning and insight. It resembles a radiophonic composition, using a myriad of local samples, sectioned off by effects that are very hard to describe. They take one into the inner recesses of the mind, where only a Jungian analysis could perhaps decipher its true meaning. Javier Alvarez's Mambo à la Braque is an interesting addition. It reminds me of a minimalist composition of Jacob ter Veldhuis, bringing in catchy musical elements, and giving the samples new meaning inside a new context. It could be described as a remix of a Latin Salsa tune! Did everyone bring their Tango Shoes?

In conclusion, Michael Brecker said it best, "Found sounds, snatched from the world outside and processed electronic sounds drawn from the inside world of computers mix and match to create a patchwork aural wallpaper for well-furnished inhabitants of the information age." This CD is a must have for any music lover yearning for something beyond the typical electroacoustic compilation album. Electro Clips is an entertaining view at the possibilities of collective projects.

Michael Vincent

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