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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
London Sinfonietta
Warp Works & Twentieth Century Masters

Rating: 8.5/10 ?

August 4, 2006
Warp Records isn't afraid to take the road right next to the road less traveled - that being the road that doesn't exist. The British record label is also unafraid to release a double live album of the London Sinfonietta performing songs from cutting edge composers and producers such as John Cage, Steve Reich, Aphex Twin, and Squarepusher.

Electronic music without electronic instruments? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but in this case it isn't. Instead Warp's latest experiment is another notch in the brilliant belt that expands every year with releases that push the iconic label's respective electronic-tinged subgenres. Warp, after all, is the same imprint that has delivered material from glitch-hopper Prefuse 73, psych-rock outfit Gravenhurst, and techno duo Plaid. Warp Works & Twentieth Century Masters is unquestionably a forray into the previously uncharted territory of classical musicians covering highly technical and cognitive songwriters.

Although not all the compositions are from Warp artists, all of them have a tie to the overall avant garde attitude through which the label goes about its business. Only Aphex Twin and Squarepusher are currently among Warp's stable of artists, but the rest of the composers are credited as sonic pioneers and forefathers to those two individuals' respective causes.

Edgard Varese is posthumously remembered as a visionary for the electronic age, and the Varese arrangement performed by the London Sinfonietta (which is the technical term for a scaled down symphony, for us uncultured knobs), entitled "Ionization", was written in 1973 for 13 percussionists - certainly a measure for modern times and artists like Autechre, who reflect Varese's influence. Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Spiral" experiments with electronic techniques to harness "a cosmic musical experience." Gyorgy Ligeti is also known for his creepy cinematic pieces that served as the scores of Stanley Kubrick films Eyes Wide Shut and The Shining (see Plaid). Steve Reich is credited with inventing phasing, as he had a strong obsession with maneuvering tape loops. Conlon Nancarrow was a hermit who composed music too complex for a human musician to perform; "Study No. 7," composed for the player piano, is an example of his machine-aided creativity (exhibit Tyondai Braxton). Of the composers paid tribute on Warp Works, John Cage was perhaps the most unconventional of them all. Some of Cage's arrangements were just downright weird - a "song" constituted by four minutes of silence and music made with actual work tools such as brake drums and anvils. Perhaps his most well-known innovation has been the prepared piano, which can be heard in Aphex Twin's "Prepared Piano Piece 1 and 2," where a chain is laid across the piano strings to create haunting yet beautiful metallic reverberations.

I know I just got all press kit-y on you, but when it comes to unprecedented releases like Warp Works & Twentieth Century Masters, the details are just as important as the way the music sounds. In this case the organic, symphonic noises heard are just as captivating as when they are heard played electronically by Aphex Twin or Squarepusher, or when they were performed by the original trailblazing composers way back when. As in many cases of genius vision, Warp Works & Twentieth Century Masters might be a bit advanced even for its often well-studied fan base. Past trends tell me that in the American market this record will not be realized like it should, but in 10 years people will be blown away when they stumble upon what they missed.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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