If there were a hall of fame for the most important figures in contemporary music there would be few faces more prestidious than that of Iannis Xenakis. The half blind former Architecht from Greece has along with Cage, Stockhausen, Henry and a handful of others pushed the world of electronics into staggering new shapes and forms, paving the way for Scenes, genres and experiments that are still developing today.
Music and Archetechture was Xenakis’ thing, and here we have a piece that resonates with the sort of structural mennace and power that many of his works both electronic and acoustic are known for. It begins however more minimalist with simple tonal clicks and sweeps, driven mainly by that great development of Xenakis, granular synthesis. The tones swirling and morphing in a wonderful display of minimalism and restraint. After a few minutes the grains begin to liquefy into a more fluid sweeping ambience. More solid concrete elements join the mix which act as tonal objects stiring the smooth soup of the ambience. By about ten minutes a flock of squeeling, undulating devices have entered the mix, creating a much more mechanical and oppressive atmosphere. Creaking, swirling sound and droning unfathomable creatures engulf the scene.
Reference points are difficult, the piece certainly has familiarities with Xenakis’ monolithic Persepolis, and I guess the more obrasive noise work from Coil circa Constant Shallowness leads to evil mixed with homotopy to marie era Nurse with wound may provide some idea of the sound of this thing. But as with many of Xenakis best works it has a uniqueness all it’s own. The soup like tonal ambience slowly slips into the background as the wall of mechanical breasts continue to stride slowly towards oblivion, punctuated with blasts of schreaking noise from time to time, before it subsides briefly to allow more subtle textures to emmerge. The mid point is punctuated by distinctly insectoid sounding buzzes and sweeps before the heavy duty concrete elements move in. My favourite being what sounds like a huge stone angle grinder moving at 1/10 speed, sorounded by ominous low end drones and crunches.
About 25 minutes in the mechanical rhythms are joined by a pulsing synth that seems to envelop all other sounds like a huge alien force. The mechanical sounds only occationally breaking through. Eventually the synth breaks down into a chaotic twisting glurp untill suddenly a huge swarm of buzzing electronic smash through the wall of noise. This is the arcetechture of Xenakis, his music has form, texture and force, you can feel it like the walls of an epic cathedral. Eventually the monoliths of sounds subside and you are left with the sound of what seems like birds flocking about you, those tones deconstruct to form the simple tonal work seen at the beginning. Brilliant.