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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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The Eye: Video of the Day

Ted Leo

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Review of the Day

The Anniversary/Superdrag Tour CD EP
A few months ago I reviewed the Superdrag tour EP "Greetings From Tennessee", and I commented on how little I liked the release because it seemed like the songwriting had slipped. It seemed only die-hard fans could appreciate the EP, as the mixes were not great, and the songs weren't the hard-hitting strength one would expect from Superdrag. Well, Superdrag released this split tour EP with The Anniversary shortly after "Greetings", and two of their tracks were also on that release, so I held off. Until I heard recently that the band had rerecorded those tracks and mixed them themselves specifically for this release. In fact, all tracks were recorded just for this release, and although I'd never heard The Anniversary, I took a chance. I'm glad I did. Not only are the Superdrag tracks much better here, The Anniversary are happily a band I am pleased to recommend. They are a bit complex, The Anniversary. Shuffling styles and identities on the fly, the only constant being the powerful vocal harmonies, The Anniversary have the sound of a band that's never happy with one direction, and that's just fine. Hastily written and recorded, as the liner notes announce, these tracks are psychedelic power pop, speaking of redemption and strength in numbers. There's even a humorous moment on the second track, 'Anais', where an aborted start is ridiculed by all involved. Funny stuff. As for the Superdrag tracks, they definitely redeem themselves and reclaim the tracks, as they are much more powerful and, for lack of a better term, crunchy here. You can tell that they wanted to get the power of these songs across better, and that John Davis wail is back, I'm pleased to announce. And you can hear all of the instruments well, which is always a plus. The double-tracked vocals on 'Take Your Spectre Away', originally a track the band was working on for their sophomore album, are a nice touch, as they just drive the band to a complete frenzy towards the end of the track. There's one new one here, 'I Guess It's American,' and it's classic Superdrag: poppy, angry guitar, and Davis singing about what's wrong with this system. "If you ever pull that shit again/Never see you the same way again," says Davis, right before proclaiming "I guess it's American/it's embarrassin'." Indeed. Here, though, The Anniversary and Superdrag prove that real American rock is still anything but, and it's worth it to give these tracks a listen. - 

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