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Improv 04

Project Soundwave

Various Artists



Sound artists from the U.S., Europe and Canada contributed to the Project Soundwave festival in San Francisco last year. This cd is the document of that event. The liner notes are by turns intentionally and unintentionally funny. Some are clearly meant to be surrealist jokes. Quite a few read like mini dry tech manuals I’ve come to expect from some electronic experimental musicians’ liner bits. Should it be a surprise that their music is often as wonky and humorless as their descriptions of it? But there’s much to praise here, and you shouldn’t let the Gradgrinds spoil it. Example: Neal Morgan’s “Warm Fields-Alive and Awake Part 3.” This maternal, soothing lullaby mimics the human heartbeat in ways that are comforting, bright and lively. Morgan says it’s made to be listened too while you look at fields, but I say it’s listening material while you’re in the womb. Later on the disc “Baby Tigers” for modified typewriters provides a rhythm that’s childlike and playful, making the most of its regular/irregular tension for a sweat-inducing, crazily textured ride. “Warm Fields-Alive and Awake Part 5” is another superb Morgan outing that’s all too short. Like “Part 3,” it’s calming and weird all at once, as if that’s the most natural thing in the world. “Slip” by Tim Gallagher skews pop song with nonsense syllables, backward tapes and accomplishes its mission with a result that emotionally connects with Morgan’s cuts: restful and disorienting in a most enjoyable way. What a marvel it is: dream pop brought to you courtesy of parallel enfolded dimensions which nurse on our reality. It comes over like a track from a White Noise album that never was. HarS’ “Les Annes Pop” uses historic broadcast material about the Kennedy assassination, massages the announcer’s voices until they are completely unintelligible as words. But the inarticulate emotional residue is still there in the vocal noises. It’s arresting and very haunting and makes you think of the way an alien might perceive our frailty. The large majority of tracks here are interesting, many are captivating, and some reach upward and touch raw beauty. A very few lapse and only get to be average techno. Overall, it’s a recommended ride. It gives new life to the art of improvisation.


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Richard Grooms