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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.



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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Ulrich Schnauss

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Review of the Day

Tim Perkis, "Motive"
Frenetic electronic music just makes me want to get in the car, step on the gas, and push my poor American-made contrivance to its limit. Damn the pedestrians in my town, damn them to hell, as I slam the right pedal to the floor and turn on the windshield wipers like some crazed Kurgen-like beast with a cackling laugh and no remorse. Then, as I am rudely awakened from my fantasy by my alarm clock, I realize it was just the music that put my brain in this state. It's Tim Perkis' Motive, and it is villain music of the finest caliber. Originally released as an MP3 album in 2002, it now gets a more proper release via Praemedia, and it deserves a dedicated airing from any fan of experimental electronic music. Perkis' work has always been cogent and influential, and his ventures into sonic landscapes and braver instrumentation are especially noteworthy. On Motive, it would appear the purpose is to place the listener into various modes, where they are willing subjects capable of producing work of the master. The computer skips and epileptic beats meet with scratches and blurbs that coagulate and split almost simultaneously. And that's just the first track. Elsewhere the pulses are subdued, with car alarm-like whistles and hums augmenting the somewhat odd progression of noise. It's like the work of some genius mad scientist in the realm of mind control or neural implants, and what you're hearing is the signals that are sent to the drones. It may make your foot twitch, it may make your head jerk, but it will certainly cause your ears to perk up at attention. This is the work of a true artist, and it is bound to be both adored and misunderstood.


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