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sound/music CD reviews

 Da Contents H2

May 1 2013
Jon Rose

April 3 2013
zephyr quartet
a rain from the shadows

July 17 2012
the wired lab
wired open day 2009

May 22 2012
ros bandt, johannes s sistermanns

March 20 2012
new weird australia editions: thomas williams vs scissor lock, spartak
jewelz & nippon

October 25 2011
avantwhatever label collection
gulbenkoglu gorfinkel; ben byrne; alex white; ivan lysiak

May 24 2011
disintegration: mutation

May 10 2011
blip (jim denley, mike majkowksi)

listen to the weather

March 22 2011
difference engine

November 22 2010
artefacts of australian experimental music volume II 1974-1983

September 20 2010
clocked out
the wide alley

September 7 2010
clocked out
foreign objects

August 23 2010
matt chaumont

July 26 2010
sky needle
time hammer

May 10 2010
mike majkowski
ink on paper

November 6 2009
new weird australia vols 1 & 2

October 26 2009
clare cooper & chris abrahams
germ studies

July 17 2009
erdem helvacioglu
wounded breath

rice corpse
mrs rice

April 28 2009
james rushford

joel stern
objects, masks, props

January 22 2009
loren chasse
the footpath

mark cauvin

December 12 2007
the splinter orchestra

October 24 2007
artefacts of australian experimental music 1930-1973

August 28 2007
akathistos fragments


various artists produced by le tuan hung; dindy vaughan
on the wings of a butterfly: cross-cultural music by australian composers; up the creek

May 1 2006
ai yamamoto

camilla hannan
more songs about factories

found: quantity of sheep

philip brophy

rod cooper

December 1 2005
anthony pateras
mutant theatre

December 1 2005
charlie charlie & will guthrie
la respiration des saintes & building blocks

dj olive

new belief system

jodi rose & guest artists
singing bridges: vibrations/variations

lawrence english

lawrence english
ghost towns

michael j schumacher
room pieces

robin fox
backscatter dvd


the necks
mosquito/see through

tim o'dwyer
multiple repeat

guns, cars & guitars

warp: various artists
warp vision: the videos 1989-2004

zane trow
for those who hear actual voices


ABC Classics, 2005
Cat No 476 8064

Producing a novel dialogue between elements of the European high Classical period and contemporary post-classical New Music can be daunting. To further extend such a musical collaboration across the centuries to include early liturgical music—in this case Byzantine chant—is therefore no mean feat. There are precedents such as Akira Rabelais’ sparse sampling of Medieval chorale (Spellewauerynsherde, 2004) or Darrin Verhagen’s use of religious chant behind his Goth textures (the Witch trilogy, 1993-2000). Under artistic director Nick Tsiavos, Jouissance has produced a unique, lyrical and musically complex take on sixth century Byzantine chorale with contemporary fusions.

Although recorded at the acoustically neutral Iwaki studios, producers Jim Atkins and Tsiavos have created a gorgeous sonic space within which the cycle sits. The chimed bells of master percussionist Peter Neville and the at times almost ‘basso profundo’ of baritone Jerzy Kozlowski rest within a richly echoing context, at once wide and deep, yet sufficiently shaped and tweaked to go beyond a simple replication of the reverberance of a Medieval cathedral. The recording is simultaneously seductive yet complex, far from the faux historicism of most Gregorian chant recordings. At their thickest, Neville’s chimes and bowed gongs sound like they could resonate to infinity.

Neville, Kozlowski and cellist Tsiavos are joined by soprano Deborah Kayser and shakuhachi player Anne Norman. The CD begins with passages of often highly syncopated singing from Kayser, answered by active contemporary instrumental responses. Norman makes the most of the special character of the shakuhachi: sharp, highly pitched accents and extended, stretched notes hover over the other instruments or make up short lead sections. Periods of sustained, strongly tongued vibrato feature within the most intense exchanges, such as the tightly controlled storm of instruments on track five (a Thracian dance).

Each instrument has a track in which it leads. Tsiavos presents a gorgeous cello solo, at once mildly Romantic in tone, yet with a rough, grating texture to the bowing, lying deep and hard within a hummed vocal wash (track eight), while on track 10 Neville fills the space with lightly buoyant timbres. As the tracks progress, the vocals eschew the tightly clipped enunciation of Kayser’s initial delivery to rise and glide over passages in a fashion more familiar in Early Music. A kind of questioning emerges with the shakuhachi, then the cello, speaking out after these motifs creating an enticing sense of non-resolution. The cycle ends with a minimalist rhythmic percussion and cello section underpinning soaring vocals.

There is an implicit narrative at the heart of the Byzantine motifs reworked here, which although related in the liner notes, remains largely opaque to modern listeners. This matters little however as the sheer gorgeousness of these works, tinged with a sense of divine tragedy, more than carries the cycle. In the context of so much spiky, acerbic New Music, it is a rare pleasure to find such a luscious new work.

Jonathan Marshall

© Jonathan Marshall; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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