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Various Artists

Cult Figures

Electroacoustic Music from Canada

(Centredisques; US: 23 Feb 2010; UK: Import; Canada Release Date: 23 Feb 2010)

“This may be one of the more interesting CDs featuring electroacoustic music by (predominantly) Western Canadian composers.” So begin the extensive liner notes to this collection, featuring members of the Edmonton Composers’ Concert Society. Dude, I might be wrong, but how many Western Canadian electroacoustic music CDs are out there?!? What is “electroacoustic music”, anyway? Basically, it’s experimental electronic music that’s too pretentious to use the term “ambient”. This stuff was truly cutting-edge in the days of John Cage and musique concrète, before electronic synthesizers became commonplace. Now, the generous use of space, the piercing tones, spooky noises, and dissonance are soundtrack material or curiosities at best, unlistenable at worst.


This 11-track compilation spans several decades, dating back to the 1960s, but the sounds are all similar. Don Ross’s “My Dad’s Story” adds some spoken dialog and nearly jazzy feel, and stands out because of it. So does Michael Horwood’s “Monday Afternoon” from 1966. An intriguing, multi-movement sound collage, it’s a reminder of what McCartney and Lennon found so appealing about this stuff. But, honestly, how many times have you actually sat through all of “Revolution 9”?

Rating:

John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of "first good female rocker" was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.


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