Obscure Voices

Zeno Van Den Broek & Gagi Petrovic
OB-LITERATE
NETHERLANDS Gaudeamus & Unsounds 63UGCD cd (2018)

Intriguing disc here, Sounds Of The Young Avant-Garde Vol 2, it seems, on first listen seemingly made up of five unnamed sections of random sounds, noises and utterances smashed together under high pressure in some cavernous venue. Recorded at Orgelpark in Amsterdam, the “…international concert stage in Amsterdam for organists, composers and other artists”. According to Sven Schlijper-Karssenberg, who wrote the sleevenotes, Den Broek and Petrovic “…blows holes in card houses of fixed ideas or walled-off bubbles – throws open windows and points to the clearest of blue skies as a tabula rasa for our cacophonous times…” Furthermore, “…music and aural material is destroyed beyond recognition…”, the intention being to “…make tradition and history positively fluid…”

The first section sets the tone early. Male and female voices speaking in languages I can’t quite identify are laid over a backing drone produced by an electronic reed organ of some kind and bass overtones and a low end rumbling component. The voices are presented with a surfeit of acoustic reverberation; occasionally a spot effect of perhaps backwards delay or gated reverb is employed. Ditto a harsh burst of static here and there. As the track progresses, there appears a dusting of Ligeti-esque choral-style harmony vocals. The second section proceeds with a bigger blast of the static from earlier, but this time accompanied by vocal yelps and shrieks. The next piece appears to be a vocal piece with minimal electronic interjections. There’s quite an overuse of reverb for my taste, although to be fair, it may be the natural characteristic of the space the recording was made in. Over the course of the disc, I personally found it a little distracting and quite tiring toward the end. The Orgelpark acoustic may be designed to flatter organs and the like, but for a vocal-led piece of work such as this, the space imbues such a pronounced and unchanging resonant characteristic, it eventually began to work against the music, in my opinion. The disc continues in much the same vein until the final, fifth section which introduces a strong melodic element which very successfully resolves the earlier, more pointillist material.

On the whole, quite a disorientating experience, even after multiple listens. That is not to say it is not intriguing and it provoked quite strong reactions – in this particular listener – which in itself is no bad thing. In fact, I very much enjoyed it. Seek it out if you’re up for a challenge.

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