Ekkehard Ehlers Soundchambers (w/ Joseph Suchy and Franz Hautzinger)

[Staubgold; 2004]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: experimental electronic, sound collage, avant-garde
Others: Terre Thaemlitz, Curd Duca, Christian Marclay, Otomo Yoshihide

Nanotubules are all the rage in almost every brand of science these days. From engineering to computers and medicine, they have savants drooling over the possibilities. Microscopic robots, smaller and faster computers... even earthquake-proof buildings. These incredibly small fibers, which are stronger than steel, offer the promise of an exciting tomorrow.

Soundchambers is the first musical implementation of this technology. Each of the three performers simultaneously builds intricate crystalline structures of sound out of these imperceptibly small blocks, weaving their delicate trellises together and then disentangling and diverging back into individual and separate constructs. Maybe this isn’t the case, but it would make sense if it were, given the strangely captivating precision and ethereality of these pieces.

The separate performers are easily distinguished throughout the album's entirety, wending their paths often on their own. But the best moments come when all three are clearly aware of each other and come together to play with a unified thrust. At these times, their sonic sculptures build on one another to form a formidably beautiful and sturdy superstructure, and the best moments also come when one of the performers understands this strength and responds by laboring to rend it apart. The other two then apparently oppose his effort and try to maintain what they’d built.

Of course, the rebel wins out in the end, but its captivating to hear this struggle. While overall this is a cogent and compelling selection, it does drag when the three threads are most loosely tied; and at times they almost disengage completely. To my ears, they are undeniably inferior moments, and as this a compilation of their performances over two days, there's little reason they should appear on the release. But in the end, I think the weaker moments are handily overshadowed by the atmospheric bliss of this album's peaks.

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