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Douglas Lilburn, "Complete Electro-Acoustic Works"

Douglas Lilburn was already an award-winning composer when he turned from conventional music to focus on electronic music, founding New Zealand’s first electronic music studio at Victoria University of Wellington in the late 1960s. The three CDs and the DVD comprising this collection contain many valuable pieces that highlight Lilburn’s contributions to the electronic form.

 

Atoll

Lilburn was particularly interested in evoking New Zealand’s natural environment, which he does through meditative drones. Using electronics to replicate concrete elements like ocean waves and birds, he also adds conceptual touches like the stretched tones mimicking bird flight in “Sounds and Distances.” Although he doesn’t often use voices in his work, when he does they are among his better pieces. One of the best tracks is “The Return,” which uses a Maori woman’s voice as a compositional element before turning to a man’s recitation of Alistair Campbell’s poem of the same name.

In addition to his more formal works, included here are his studies documenting his experimentation with singular ideas or techniques, such as the two separate groups each collectively entitled “Five Toronto Pieces,” which were recorded six years apart, as well as a soundtrack for a dance sequence. The DVD contains a few all-too-short excerpts from films that find Lilburn demonstrating his techniques and talking about his ideas, two songs reproduced in four channels as he originally intended, and an illuminating audio interview.

One commonality among these different musical projects is the meticulousness with which they were created. Lilburn struggled with the primitive equipment he had at his disposal and his poise and patience are evidenced in every recording. Rather than settling for unpredictable effects, he took the time to study the technology in depth and harness it to his own end. There are a few places in the collection that hit an introspective plateau and lose some momentum, but for the most part each disc is arranged non-chronologically in a way that balances the different dynamic levels found in Lilburn’s works. I found the third disc to be the most consistently rewarding, yet the other two discs hit peaks just as high.

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Review of the Day

ukiyo-e, "inland"
While it's not my practice to review things nearly impossible to get, this CD deserves a mention. My first exposure to this Australian quintet was through their song on Fat-Cat's "No Watches.No Maps" collection of demo songs from bands they weren't going to pursue anything with at the time. What I heard can be described as somewhat derivative from an Aerial M/Tortoise/Fridge sound but their mastery of musicianship, songwriting and production skills are quite appealing. Inside the disc there was contact information listed, so I wrote to them and said I wanted to hear their album, with possible interest to send it to some friends at labels/distributors but I had no intention of writing about it. After hearing their 37-minute six-song LP I can safely say I'm not surprised at the sound but pleasantly impressed with their abilities. It might still have that derivative quality which will most likely keep them from being picked up by any label outside Australia for a while, but there's something hard to put your finger on that you can just sense. It's the sense that these people are actually going somewhere and are off to a great start, and I'm interested in what's to become of next, even interested enough to possibly try and release this here myself if I wasn't so damned busy with everything else in my life. If you couldn't guess from the comparisons already, the music itself is instrumental, composed of conventional rock instruments with the occasional vibrophone. It's rock-based with an occasional nod to jazz, but never to the point of wankiness nor with over-the-top production. I don't know how you can obtain it, but there is a website listed at www.trifekta.com.au, or you can try to bug your record stores to carry it and perhaps their distributors will become interested. In my experience however, the web site doesn't work and record stores and distributors are pigs. Stay tuned however, as more developments on this band will be noted here as they're made.

 

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