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In a time when sampling, remixing and reinterpreting past acoustic works in an electronic fashion are commonplace, revisiting electronica in an acoustic environment may be the most daring move of all. And that's exactly what the 22-piece ensemble Alarm Will Soundwhose debut recording Tehillim/The Desert Music (Cantaloupe, 2002) put a fresh spin on two of minimalist composer Steve Reich's more well-known worksdo with Acoustica: Alarm Will Sound Performs Aphex Twin. The result is an album that, like its predecessor, demonstrates just how far creative minds can go in sourcing material and providing a bold new outlook.
Aphex Twinthe shop front name for Richard D. Jamesrepresents one of the more enduring artists to push electronica/techno to the forefront with albums including I Care Because You Do (Sire, 1995) and Richard D. James Album (Elektra, 1996). Aphex Twin was also one of the earliest, along with The Orb, to blend techno and ambient music into a new amalgam, proving to naysayers that the term "intelligent techno" is not an oxymoron. But even James' forward-thinking intellect could not have imagined a contemporary ensemble more closely associated with the classical world taking his material and audaciously renewing it in ways that, by removing (for the most part) the dance floor element, prove him to be a surprisingly compelling and detailed writer.
What's perhaps most remarkable about Alarm Will Sound's approach to Aphex Twin is how they mimic processing through purely acoustic means. "Cliffs" is a minimalist-sounding piece which finds the various instruments playing repeated phrases and, by gradually reducing the attack, emulates delay processing. The frenetic drum beat of "Cock/Ver 10" is subtly processed to lend an electronic ambience; but the horns and strings that begin in a cacophonous manner before settling into the song's more memorable theme are pure and untarnished. Odd appliances including curtain rods, duck calls, plastic tubing, air pumps and hose horn create out-of-the-ordinary textures that turn Alarm Will Sound into something sounding less conventional and, consequently, an intriguing fit for Aphex Twin's music.
"Multiface 6" demonstrates just how well Alarm Will Sound adapts to Aphex Twin's electronica elements. A dance rhythm and popped electric bass create a backdrop over which various instruments layer. Some hold long tones, others emulate electronic squawks, squeaks and squabbles. The rhythm breaks down into ambient-like passages that even suggest elements of dub.
The thirteen pieces are arranged by various members of the ensemble, but everyone reveres the rich construction of Aphex Twin's multi-layered writing and broad sonic universe. Dennis DeSantis' two remixes end the disc proving that there is, indeed, a meeting place between Alarm Will Sound's acoustic approach and Aphex Twin's electronica.
While Alarm Will Sound possesses more inherent complexity and textural capabilities, fans of Bell Orchestre's recent Recording a Tape the Color of the Light will find clear commonality. Acoustica proves that good music is where you find itand that, for those open-minded enough, it's all just part of a larger continuum that eschews the artifice of musical boundaries.
Track Listing: Cock/Ver 10; Logon Rock Witch; Meltphace 6; Blue Calx; Fingerbib; Gwely Mernans; 4; Prep Gwarlek 3B; Omgyja Switch 7; Cliffs; Jynweythek Ylow; Mt. Saint Michael; Avril 14th; Prep Gwarlek 3B Remix; Cliff's Remix.
Personnel: Jessica Johnson: flute, alto flute, piccolo, curtain rods; Jackie Leclair: oboe, English horn; Beth Stimpert: clarinet, bass clarinet; Bill Kalinkos: clarinet, alto saxophone; Michael Harley: bassoon; Matt Marks: horn, horsoon, hose horn, Jew's harp; Jason Price: trumpet, duck call; James Hirschfeld: trombone; Payton MacDonald: percussion, steel drums; Lawson White: drums set, percussion, plastic tubing; Jason Treuting: drum set, percussion, air pumps; Peter Wise: percussion, curtain rods, mbira; John Orfe: piano, celesta, fender rhodes; Courtney Orlando: violin, piano, voice; Caleb Burhans: violin, viola, voice, piano, water hose; John Pickford Richards: viola, accordion; Stefan Freund: cello, curtain rods; Miles BrownL electric bass, upright bass, engraving tool; Evan Hause: electric guitar, percussion; Martha Cluver: voice, tambura, curtain rods; Dennis Desantis: remixes; Alan Pierson: conductor, celesta, cocktail stirrer kalimba.