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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

The Sea and Cake

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Review of the Day

TIM BOWNESS / PETER CHILVERS, "CALIFORNIA, NORFOLK"
Burning Shed
Deviating from their usual medium of on-demand CD-Rs, the Burning Shed online label debuts their first Red Book disc in a good old fashioned jewel case. Peter Chilvers (Alias Grace) and Tim Bowness (No-Man, Centrozoon) also collaborate in Samuel Smiles and Henry Fool. 'California, Norfolk' is a sort of extension of the former's 'World Of Bright Futures' album, the title track in particular. Bowness' ruminations on lost love and fading memories are fairly simple, but his rich tone and breathy delivery brings the inherent sadness and muted joys within them to life. The vocals are very forward in the mix but deftly framed by minor beats, sampled auras and tender piano, keyboard, guitar and bass melodies and textures. It's beautifully stark - part balladry, part ambient, part soundscape - think of Nick Drake's 'Pink Moon' spirit as processed by Brian Eno. It's strange how quickly this album floats by despite its 45 minute running time. And although good beginning to end and back again, "Hostage" and "Winter With You" are my personal favorites. For the former, sweeping orchestral synth and background giggling help tell the short story of "the girl you never forgot, was never happy with her lot ... walked around a hostage to her fright". And in the latter, the crunch of trodden snow drifts in and out of its 10 plus minutes. Chilvers subtlety steals the limelight by breaking up an instrumental passage with a delicate piano refrain. 'California, Norfolk' is another great addition to the ever growing Chilvers and Bowness related pile.

 

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