"Sub City 2064" album was Editor’s Top Three CDs in Guitar Player magazine’s september issue of 2010.


microbionic feb 2009 - thomas bailey
After a near eternity of absence, it looks like it’s about time to dust off this blog again and make some more entries. If, for no other reason, because the book which this blog relates to could –if all goes well- be available for pre-order as early as next week. I’ll be sure to update all who are interested, if that turns out to be the case.

In the meantime, I’ve recently received a new CD, Wounded Breath, from Turkish electro-acoustic composer Erdem Helvacioglu. Erdem has worked with my own collaborator and friend Ishigami Kazuya, and many more besides- some of the more recognizable names including Mick Karn and Elliot Sharp. His music contains such immaculate attention to spatial awareness and natural flux that it should immediately dispel anyone's tourist preconceptions about what modern music from Turkey is "supposed" to sound like. While it does feature many of the keening electronic tones and crumpled, granulated anomalies that are now a staple of computer music (both the academic and 'amateur' varieties), his music also features rich brassy tones, reverberating over huge distances, that lend themselves perfectly to any hyper-urban film noir situation or cinematic moment of suspense.

Wounded Breath, at over an hour's running time, initially seems as if it will wear out its welcome, since the sound events fly at the listener at such a vertigo-inducing pace. The fact that these sounds are primarily of a 'metallic' or 'crystalline' nature will probably also unnerve some not already used to electro-acoustic music, who might expect a deadly injury to result from one of these giant, lacerating metal chunks hurtling into their headspace. For those already acclimated to this sort of thing, though, waiting for these eruptions of palpable audio activity is half the fun. After you've successfully picked up the gauntlet thrown down by the opening 12 minutes of "Below The Cold Ocean," though, the remainder of the CD progresses much more smoothly and fewer sonic novelties pop up to challenge the listener's stability. Your resistance to the alien nature of the music eventually crumbles, and everything eventually coalesces- although I can't pinpoint exactly when this happens (it will vary from one listen to the next), there comes a time where even the violent disturbances in the music seem to be enjoying a relaxed conversation with the amniotic drones and sub-oceanic rumblings. The interweaving of careful nuance with brash explosiveness both hearkens back to the tape compositions of composers like Ussachevsky, while also being defiantly futuristic.

If I have one criticism of the CD, it is of Erdem’s attempt, via the liner notes, to provide a ‘setting’ for each piece using sharp declarative sentences. Since Helvacioglu is a composer for film and dance, I can understand where this kind of approach would be useful in helping the composer to personally realize his work, but these mini-narratives only tend to detract from the music at hand if one tries to use them as a 'guide' or as a means of decoding the alluring weirdness of the sounds. The CD is best listened to as a single piece, and in fact the variation in timbral quality, dynamics etc. from one track to the next is not really as different as the composer's imaginary scenarios themselves, which range from a deep sea adventure to highly personal epiphanies. This is the type of sound which benefits from the listener's lack of precognition of where it is coming from, or headed to.

All told, though, this is a solid offering from a composer whose work steers clear of 'genre' music and its restrictions on the acceptable usage of music. Helvacioglu is one of a growing number of electronic composers who dare to wrest recorded music back from the social milieu which confines it, returning it to a place where it can flourish organically, free of counterproductive trends and fads.

Thomas William Bailey
microbionic feb 2009 - thomas bailey
RELATED DISCOGRAPHY

Wounded Breath