VA: Audible Approaches For A Better Place

The concept: simple and straightforward; the result: powerful and provocative. c.sides posed the question “What if artists composed music for a better world?” to ten producers and in so doing asked them to create exclusive pieces for the recording, with all creations predicated upon the idea of making the world a better, more just, and beautiful place through the force of their musical artistry. Few guidelines were imposed aside from the idea that a given piece should be between ten to fifteen minutes in length, a time frame that would allow for significant musical development to occur within it. By way of further clarification, c.sides associates Ronni Shendar and Till Rohmann describe the project as a sincere personal reaction to the relentless flow of catastrophes, global and local, darkening the world and rooted in the timeless belief that art can make a difference given such circumstances. Largely electronic in terms of production design and fundamental character, Audible Approaches For A Better Place features contributions from a diverse range of producers, including Gold Panda, Jasmina Maschina, Khan, and Brand Brauer Frick.

No more potent an opener could have been settled upon for the release than “The Sky Fell Silent,” a ravishing collaboration between German electronic producer Glitterbug (Till Rohmann) and Israeli-Palestinian Arabic Soprano opera singer Enas Massalha. Above all else the piece receives its power from her emotional performance, especially its opening minutes when her voice ululates mournfully against the droning backdrop fashioned for her by Rohmann. Though lyrics such as “It was there I saw the mourning rivers / It was there I heard the valleys whimper / It was there I watched the sky fell silent” clearly convey the dramatic content of the piece, the sonic presentation of the piece communicates sufficient power all by itself (the piece is also reimagined on the second disc in a Glitterbug vocal edit that finds Massalha's multiplied voice becoming even more entrancing when turned into a gyroscopic swirl). By comparison, Eliad Wagner's “Exile” (fittingly titled given that the Israeli musician is currently living between Amsterdam and Berlin) is a more purely electronic affair in that the primary sound-generator is the Arp 2600—think eleven minutes of rolling hills and open skies with arpeggiated flutterings, twinkly melodies, and jaunty rhythms as the soundtrack. Christian Löffler's “Cast” adopts a much more ponderous tone as it navigates a measured path through a field recordings-infested landscape of brooding electronic melodies and patterns. In the true spirit of the recording, Löffler's piece makes full use of its extended running time in its ever-so-patient patient build and ends up sounding very much like an exemplar of n5MD's trademark “emotional electronica” style. Khan's “Shahane” (the Turkish word for beautiful) likewise adopts a slow-build approach as it pays a ten-minute homage to the long-standing Turkish-Armenian cymbal makers Zildjian, while Gold Panda brings a glitchier dimension to the recording by integrating sounds of ventilation points, aerating tunnels and air conditioners into the aptly named meditation “Air.”

On the second disc, renowned trio Brand Brauer Frick work their customary magic in “Schwan” by assembling a clockwork, piano-and-percussion-driven apparatus of hyperactive melodic and rhythmic complexity. An explorative setting scored for piano, electronics, daf frame drum, and vocals (the vocal samples taken from multiple sources, including Gabriel Prokofiev and Elisabeth Lutyens), John Kameel Farah pursues a more classically flavoured direction in his “Mountain Hymn,” which at times resembles a contemporary piano concerto in accompanying the instrument with electronics and vocals rather than the customary orchestral elements. In her Jasmina Maschina piece “Romantic Rebellion,” Jasmine Guffond brings a democratic spirit to the project in having trumpeter Liz Albee and saxophonist Boris Hauf play the notes E, G, A, and B in variations, durations, and registers of their choosing, with Guffond herself contributing guitar and electronics during the live performance. At disc's end, Efterklang's Casper Clausen joins Mads Brauer for “The Figment Notebook,” a long-form setting that unspools over an eighteen-minute rurning time, with an instrumental first half followed by a second that adds the sound of Sara Davis narrating the story-like text (by filmmaker Karim Ghahwagi) to the stirring piano-laden musical materials conjured by Clausen and Brauer. All noble aims aside, it's unlikely that Audible Approaches For A Better Place will succeed in changing the world, though one certainly applauds and admires the good intentions of all involved. However, it more than achieves the more modestly ambitious goal of providing nearly two quality hours of innovative and wide-ranging new music.

October 2011