The Tubes
Michael Fahres

Cold Blue Music

The three compositions on this disc form a little travelogue, beginning in Armenia and ending in Portugal. The bulk of the listener’s time, though, is spent in the Canary Islands during the title track, where the sound of the Atlantic being forced through volcanic rock formations is used by Fahres as a glacial ostinato.

All that water sounds uncannily like breathing, as if some monstrously large creature were in a deep slumber. It’s a sound that moves from innocuity, through claustrophobia, to sheer dread at times. Slowly, the sound of Mark Atkins’ didgeridoo and Jon Hassell’s trumpet are layered into the mix, but what could be your standard recipe for Yoga-Studio schlock is deftly paced and beautifully constructed. Both instruments enter well under the radar, and assume the spotlight without ever abandoning exceptional taste. The conclusion of Hassell’s cadenza is a typically breathy explosion of sound that is just about indistinguishable from the undulating ocean. This is the kind of recording that lets you get wondrously lost in someone else’s sound world.

Sevan opens the CD and features some delicate singing from Parik Nazarian. Her performance was recorded inside the huge metal pipes that the Soviets began to build in an attempt to revitalize Lake Sevan in Armenia. The pipes stand empty now, one of countless public works that were abandoned in the wake of the Cold War, and anyone who has seen eerily motionless steam shovels and bulldozers and half-laid concrete in post-Soviet Russia can easily conjure up a desolated image to accompany Fahres’ elegy.

But therein lies the power of program notes. Nazarian could just as easily be singing in the DC Metro. It’s a testament to Fahres’ command of his source material that these pieces add up to far more than the sum of their parts.

The only piece that is explicitly linked to a particular time and place is the closing Coimbra 4, Mundi Theatre, far and away the disc’s standout track. The source material here is culled from a sprawling interactive event that took place in Coimbra, Portugal in 2003. Some 1700 performers were involved, featuring everything from marching bands to choirs and people on the street. The soundscape Fahres develops from what must have been a daunting archive of field recordings is absolutely compelling, and stands squarely with the best of musique concrí¨te.

The exhiliration of Coimbra 4’s pacing is a wonderful counterpoint to the preceding material. It brings the disc to a stirring close and leaves the listener wanting much, much more.

2 Responses to “The Electroacoustic Tourist”
  1. Steve Layton says:

    Yep, Hassell it is. Here’s the CD notes from the Coldblue site:

    http://coldbluemusic.com/pages/CB0024.html

  2.  
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