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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


erdem helvacioglu

wounded breath

Aucourant, AUREC, 0899-1

Turkish musician Erdem Helvacioglu is best known for his work with electric guitar and computer processing, drawing favourable comparisons with guitar/laptop artist Christian Fennesz (although Helvacioglu offers a significantly more polite if somewhat florid version of even Fennesz’s most accessible music). However with his latest release, Wounded Breath, Helvacioglu seems largely to have eschewed the guitar and instead produced an album of electroacoustic compositions.

After several listens the overall impression is of digital reverberation. This is not to say that these compositions are geared towards any discrete exploration of the parameters or expanses of synthetic space creation, nor that they are pursuing reverberation as a means of sound production in and of itself. Instead there is the sense that echo, reverb and digitally induced spaciousness has been injudiciously applied to just about every sound in these compositions. While this may lend the album superficial production slickness, it has the effect of homogenising not only the sounds used to construct the works—which have effectively had any sharp corners or angles sheared away with the sonic equivalent of a sander and buffer—but the compositions themselves. Perhaps Helvacioglu’s work in film soundtracks might explain this overactive fascination with digital reverberation. However, even the sonic codes of mainstream action cinema don’t require quite this degree of synthesised echo.

It may seem churlish to chastise an artist for the overuse of a particular effect or form of signal processing. However, any argument that could be constructed in relation to other musical genres positing a division between electronic effects and an artist’s aesthetics is hardly applicable to electroacoustic or electronic music. An artist’s choice of the processes for modifying sounds is no more or less significant than their selection of sounds upon which those processes are deployed, if indeed these two features can be considered separately. A given sound, once affected or processed, is not only a new sound, it is the sound as heard in the work, and this is what listeners encounter. In some cases, processing is not an afterthought so much as the stimulus for the work. Therefore, in electroacoustic compositions such as these, processing must be considered not only as integral to the compositions, but a serious indicator of the aesthetics involved.

Unfortunately, listening beneath the echo isn’t a particularly rewarding experience. While the reverberation in these compositions might promise a series of potentially sensational spaces, they are ultimately rather drably adorned, or alternately filled with little of interest. Many of the sounds used here—despite how they may have been generated—will be familiar to even casual listeners of electronic music produced in the last 50 or so years: bleeps, bubbling yibbles, deep winding drones, shuffling white noise and so on. Structurally the works offer few surprises, following a simple (and well-worn) formula of peak and trough. This gives all the works a kind of unit structure that becomes maddeningly predictable long before the CD is through. Added to this is a reliance upon the cavalcade of affective clichés that echo is so often used to induce. Yes, the various reverberations all sound ‘great’ and fulfil all the related adjectives—‘rich’, ‘deep’, ‘cavernous’, ‘spacey’, ‘watery’, ‘cold’, ‘scary’ and so on—but regrettably it doesn’t leave the listener with anything much of interest to engage with. Swamped in reverb the sounds don’t really get much of a chance to speak for themselves, and, as a result, in a slightly strange way, neither does the artist.
Peter Blamey

© Peter Blamey; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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