Raudive: Chamber Music

In draping strings and vocal choirs across clubby dance grooves, Raudive's arresting Chamber Music inhabits a genre-transcending interzone midway betwixt minimal techno, electronic experimentalism, and classical music. Preceded by a slew of EP releases dating back to 2006 for labels such as Klang Elektronik, Poker Flat, Drumcode, and Macro (Audio, Cone, and Paper among them), the recording's the debut full-length outing by Meta label head Oliver Ho under the Raudive alias (Ho himself boasts a hefty discography dating back to 1996).

In the opener “Is It Dark in Here,” a female choir intones hauntingly atop a plummeting bass motif and skeletal drum pattern, with the dark rhythms leaving space for the dark strains of a bass clarinet and other woodwinds to seep into the incantation. “Cone” neatly exemplifies the Raudive style by augmenting a mid-tempo house pulse with jazzy punctuations—a ride cymbal accent, voice stutters, atonal piano sprinklings—and a ghostly saxophone. “Paper” does much the same in pairing dissonant string flurries with a pumping techno-funk groove. Electric guitar stabs and scrapes and Zizi Kanaan's robotic voice murmurings lend “X-Rays” a punk, No Wave-styled edge, while multiple slivers of echo-laden sounds—woodwinds, mallet percussion, voices—bob to the surface of a house pulse during “Tul.”

Ho isn't averse to stretching out. All but two of the album's nine tracks exceed the six-minute mark, with “Brittle” tipping the scales at twelve. The atmospheric piece understatedly stokes a voodoo spell using voices and a one-note organ riff that repeats so obsessively it comes to resemble one of Philip Glass's early minimalism exercises. Though nothing sounds unplanned in Ho's music, it's also not rendered lifeless by the severe control and deliberation he brings to it. It's meticulously constructed, in other words, rather than slapdash or meandering. Anyone desirous of Dionysian ecstasy is looking in the wrong place as Ho's more interested in this memorable project in creating avant-garde set-pieces whose focus is more cerebral than sweaty. Broached on its own terms, the recording clearly succeeds.

September 2010