psi 09.08

Two methods of creation are exposed on this disc by FURT, the British electronic composition/performance duo of Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer. “Uranus” is a studio improvisation/composition developed over a two-year period, which mixes and matches found sounds, ready-mades and machine-driven properties using a variety of electronic devices. Composed in memory of Karlheinz Stockhausen, the almost 26-minute “curtains” in contrast, was recorded live early in 2009. Both variants undeniably impress, in part because of the almost extrasensory connection Barrett and Obermayer have developed by sonic experimenting together since 1986.

No threnody in the regular sense, “curtains” instead sprawls across the soundfield as thin strident timbre are overlaid with low mewling pulses, as angular sonic palindromes display resemblances to whistling BB gun shots and backwards-running tapes. Mixed in are faint suggestion of pre-recorded liturgical music plus samples of funereal drum beats and piano chording. By the finale, as machine-like jagged textures wave and resonate, a super-quick cartoon-like melody alternates with triggered stop-start pulses and ring-modulator peals until a descending, echoing piano arpeggio connects with a ghostly melancholy cry.

More diffuse and with greater scope for varied exploration, the segmented “Uranus” offers a dozen different strategies that balance between acoustic and mechanized. Wooden sounding plinks and watery pulses share space with discordant episodes of rapidly rotating mechanized chirps, mallet-driven vibes-like textures and near-bestial growls. Having time, energy and liberty, FURT expands the number of paths open to committed electro-acoustic experimenters.

— Ken Waxman

— For MusicWorks Issue #107