Sampler from Russia.
This CD is a set of archival recordings from a Russian prototype synthesizer known as ANS. The one and only ANS ever made still exists, at a university in Moscow. From what I can glean from the liner notes, the ANS assists not only with the creation of the music, but also the recording and performing. I wish there were a picture of it, I think it would be interesting to see.So what does it sound like? Imagine early minimal Krautrock, such as Tangerine Dream's Zeit, or old science fiction soundtracks, such as Louis and Bebe Barron's score to Forbidden Planet. It is dark, brooding music, but also just a little campy, with lots of whooshing and pulsing sounds, and deep echoes. Though this is a collection of different artists, the first three tracks are almost indistinguishable, likely owing to the character of the synthesizer itself. However, the fourth track, Edward Artemiev's "12 Looks at the World of Sound," seems to be a deliberate attempt to really test the ANS, to see just how many sounds can be coaxed out of it. Passages of assorted noises are stretched across occasional backdrops of silence. At first it is interesting, but by the fourth minute of nearly thirteen, it is a chaotic mess. Track five is amazing, knowing it was created on a synthesizer over 30 years ago. Bird calls and other atmospherics are blended, sounding almost exactly like the opening to Edgar Froese's Epsilon in Malaysian Pale, though I'm fairly certain Froese never used an ANS. The beginning and end of this track have a nice tropical feel, but like the previous track, it does get a bit muddled in the middle.On the whole, I find I like the drone pieces best, like Alfred Schnittke's "Steam." The tonal colors are quite rich, and the dark mood becomes quite intense. Early on, the sound quality is decent, but popping and clicking from the original vinyl are quite noticeable in some of the later tracks. I'm sure this CD is important historically, but it is a mixed bag. About one third is drones, one third sounds like old sci-fi, and the rest is a variety of experimentation and classical music, perhaps the strangest being the closing number, which sounds like carousel music, played much too loud.
- Oleg Buloshkin - Sacrament [3:34]
- Sofia Gubaidulina - Vivente-Non Vivente ("Alive & Dead") [10:44]
- Edward Artemiev - Mosaic [4:00]
- Edward Artemiev - 12 looks at the world of sound [12:52]
- Edison Denisov - Birds singing [5:05]
- Alfred Schnittke - Steam [5:50]
- Alexander Nemtin - Tears [4:41]
- Alexander Nemtin - I.S. Bach: Choral Prelude C-Dur [2:30]
- Schandor Kallosh - Northern Tale [5:38]
- Stanislav Kreitchi - Voices of the west [2:00]
- Edward Artemiev & Stanislav Kreitchi - Music from the motion picture "Cosmos" [12:15]
- Stanislav Kreitchi - Intermezzo [2:00]
2000. Phil Derby / Sequences Magazine
"Electroshock Records" of Moscow has released a CD with pioneering electronic music from the period 1964 1971, which is a period when the somewhat lighter hand of Nikita Krushchev was replaced by the much sturdier
and more repressive totalitarian reign of Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev.
This CD is a great revelation to the world outside of Russia, giving insights to the experimentation of sound during that important period, when so much was happening in the U.S.A. ("San Francisco Tape Music Center") and Europe (The Stockhausen adventure in full swing and Rune Lindblad conducting his experiments in Gothenburg). The CD that "Electroshock" has released in a limited edition - hopefully to be reprinted, though this is denied so far from Artemiy Artemiev of the company - is called "Electroacoustic Music Vol. IV."
Synthesizer ANS. Archive Tapes 1964 - 1971". The ANS was (is) a machine for synthesizing sounds. I have not as yet understood how it is constructed and how it works, but it is used by the composers on this CD.
The machine, which was constructed by the Russian scientist Evgeniy Murzin from 1937 to 1957, was built in one copy only, which is kept at the Lomonosov University in Moscow.
When you study the list of composers on this CD who utilized the ANS synthesizer you’re bound to grasp for air. Did you hear electronic music before by, for example, Sofia Gubaidulina, Edison Denisov and Alfred Schnittke? This CD is a great treasure!
The first track is Oleg Buloshkin’s "Sacrament". It is a short (3:34) piece, beginning with a soft pulse on a backdrop of "space sounds", they way they appeared in old space movies, but soon overtones of very rich spectra draw a melodic line of great beauty,
while the pulse gets stronger. The feeling is that of enchantment, of silvery, forested magic; a Russian fairy tale. Toward the end the pulse rhythm moves in the direction of African tribal dances, incredibly, inside the space feeling, as if picked up the scanning devices of stellar travelers.
Sofia Gubaidulina is next with her "Vivente - Non Vivente"; an allusion on Shakespeare’s text. Gubaidulina’s piece is longer - 10:44 - and
seems to be the first grand Russian effort at an electronic composition, if indeed the sequence on the CD is chronological. (I miss the exact dates of all pieces, which are not given. It is important to give all details when
issuing historical material). A strangeness - an estrangement - hovers over this piece too, and one wonders if that is an effect of the ANS synthesizer or the Russian iron curtain confinement - or both. Anyhow, this is great music, displaying intriguing sound webs, ominous and dark, like a scene out of Tarkovsky’s "Stalker"; a feeling, which gets even stronger when angelic (?) voices are detected deep inside the murmur and swooshing of electronic sounds. A female voice flutters around like a butterfly deep inside the echoing layers of sound, as from a witch way inside your subconscious. The witch’s laughter gets hysterical, merging with the bubbling and crushing electronics of Gubaidulina and the ANS synthesizer. Extended, elastic events render a backdrop of some stability, of a weighty succession through the sounding space, while shorter, fluttering disturbances move in faster figures up front. A beautiful wind-chime tingles and tangles like church bells on the loose in your right speaker, while female "aahs" swirl through space at left. I only wish Sofia Gubaidulina had composed more for the electroacoustic medium. She’s great at combining electronics and sampled concrete sounds.
Track 3 constitutes Edward Artemiev’s "Mosaic"; a four minute event, also simultaneously displaying slow background sound curtains, slowly shifting - and closer, faster sounds, all moving. Artemiev’s music
here is very spatial, rich in events, rich in timbres. This is in fact a very timbral music, layered, shifting like the light shining through a lava crust or the layers of ice shifting, building up and falling down, at the time of spring when the ice of the sea breaks up at shore. The title - "Mosaic" - is a hint that this shifting effect was intended by the composer.
No. 4 is also a piece by Edward Artemiev, called "12 Looks at the World of Sound". This is - as the title indicates - a very mixed bag of sounds, though seamlessly attached to each other, mixed and redistributed. It begins with a jew's harp, probably recorded in the Tuva region of overtone singing and beautiful horses. A world of indigenous shamanism opens inside your mind at the continuation of the piece, through an inward Bardo Thodol journey, in which you are shown all the good and bad you caused in the shadowy world of the living. Staccato incidents shift with long, bending, bulging sheet steel sections of sound, and you float through it all like a flake of fur tree bark blown off a tree, filmed in slow motion. Hectic and disturbing metal workshop sounds emerge out of a hazy, giant construction hall, where beings circle their objects like bees in a hive. The view shifts into the sewer pipes of the city, where dreamy, ghostly shadows drift in oblivion. The sounds are distant, as if heard through long, endless catacombs. Later on Artemiev sounds like Konrad Boehmer or Gottfried Michael Koenig, in metallic, scraping, over-powering shrills. Avalanche murmurs invade the space, as small sparks of electricity ping and sparkle through your cerebral cortex. This Edward Artemiev work is very imaginative, very inventive.
Edison Denisov's "Birds Singing" opens with a sonic view of a northern forest lake, where all kinds of birds gather, like cranes, wood-peckers, wader birds, crows and so on - in a pristine, un-touched, un-altered
landscape. The famous Swedish composer Karl-Birger Blomdahl also used nature sounds in his rare electronic venture "Altisonans"
(1966). Moose are also heard in Denisov's composition, conversing loudly in the echoing forest. A whippoorwill - a nightjar - whirs from afar inside the woods. This scenery
is lightly mixed with electronic sounds, but mostly Denisov just uses the natural sounds of all these beings to create this world of sounds beyond the human world. It's a pity that Denisov's piece is so short - 5:05 - and I haven't heard of any other piece by him in the electronic vein.
Alfred Schnittke participates with his "Steam". Alfred Schnittke became famous in the West for his meta music and his uninhibited mix of styles from different periods. This is the one and only electronic piece I've hard of him. It approaches in brittle overtones from afar, gradually extending its presence, spreading out to encompass the whole listening space, though arriving from the left, slowly involving the whole area. Layers of overtone sounds amass, as if you were listening to Folke Rabe's "Was??" in an echo chamber. The sound thins out momentarily, distancing itself, but hovers over the horizon like a trembling wave of an oscilloscope. Much energy is at work, no doubt, to fill the horizon like this. Almost industrial sounds of grinding steel against steel follow, much in the tradition of the Romanian avant-garde, which, however, is of a later date than this Schnittke piece. Since many of the composers on this CD produce these extended lines of overtonal successions, I suppose the ANS synthesizer was particularly well suited for this - or was that just a common style during those years? Folke Rabe did it in Sweden in 1966, without any knowledge - as far as I know - of the ANS synthesizer in Moscow.
Track 7 is "Tears" by Alexander Nemtin. This sounds a lot like some of the experiments of the 1950s at the WDR studio in Cologne, with distant low-fi industrial sounds arranged in layers and sections, not without electronic charm. Apparently this piece is taken directly off a vinyl, since you can hear the minute crackling and hissing of the surface - which makes this piece almost even more desirable, deducing that it was in the knack of time to be able to save it for future listeners.
Track 8 also features Alexander Nemtin. The piece is - luckily - very short - 2:30 - and utilizes Johan Sebastian Bach's "Chorale Prelude in C major" - or actually simply plays it via the ANS synthesizer. I do not see the significance of such an effort, but nonetheless, here it is. Maybe it's a Russian comment on the American Bach issues using the Moog synthesizer - which ever came first. It's not interesting, anyway, at all.
Schandor Kallosh's "Northern Tale" is the more interesting, emerging in thin, brittle, sharp soundings, sprayed with showers of pea-like gushes over kitchen tables, evolving inside a magically revolving eternity of space, really giving you the sense of immense distance and the immediate closeness of yourself in yourself. This
piece too appears to have been taken off a vinyl. It interests me a lot, because the handling of the material is extremely inventive, at one time appearing in the guise of a rock 'n roll mimicry, and shortly thereafter in a distant reverence to Rostropovich and his cello, far inside the electronic layers of sound. Kallosh has applied his imagination in an impressive way, even utilizing a short loop of a woman's voice in a rhythmic way that so far, to my knowledge, only Steve Reich in his "Come Out!" (1966) has done, in that same manner.
Stanislav Kreitchi is a very interesting composer, who has kept on working with electronics. Elsewhere on this site I have reviewed his CD "Ansiana" (Electroshock Records ELCD 016), released in 2000. Here we listen to a younger Kreitchi, in a piece called "Voices of the West". This is taken from a vinyl as well, so I suppose the original tapes are lost. Kreitchi works with melodic and non-melodic material in a curious mix, utilizing a short feedback, immersing parts of the event with metallic high-pitch screeches of the rusty hinges of a door. The piece is only 2 minutes long.
The 11th track is a joint effort by Edward Artemiev and Stanislav Kreitchi; a sound track piece for the movie "Cosmos". Artemiev has done much music for movies, for example for the Tarkovsky cult movies. It's clear that this track too is ripped off a vinyl, but, like I said before, it only heightens the experience of exclusiveness. The "Cosmos" music is strange blending of melodious music and electronics, and I suppose it would have been hard to have a purely experimental, electronic soundtrack for a movie. The work is about twelve minutes long, and you have time to seep into the atmosphere of the piece. Which is a dreamy state of mind, a dreamy state of space, and how could it be different with a movie title like "Cosmos"?
The music is enjoyable, even if not equaling the best of either Artemiev or Kreitchi.
The CD as such is a must, so I hope it will be reprinted, no matter how definite the negative message from "Electroshock" may sound at the moment.
Ingvar loco Nordin / Sonoloco