(Monochrome Vision)

Having awarded the prize for the longest-ever title reviewed in Touching Extremes, let me also explain this double CD a little bit. Das Synthetische Mischgewebe is a continuously mutating collective of electroacoustic composers and aural scientists, active in projects that preferrably deal with cognitive sciences and neurological research. Among the most peculiar creations they realized, particularly meaningful are their collaboration with the hospital of Bordeaux (“very isolated everyday sounds for deaf patients who had just received a cochlea implant”) and the “development of virtual reality systems addressed to training patients with social phobias”. Utterly fascinating topics for yours truly. The involved names include Michael Northam, John Grzinich, ERG, Isabelle Chemin, Guido Hübner, Jörg Thomasius, Slavek Kwi, Artificial Memory Trace, Yasutoshi Yoshida, M.S.B.R., Government Alpha, Peter John, The Oval Language, Thomas Beck. As you can see, a nice congregation of illustrious sound artists, post-industrial entities and (at least to me) perfect strangers. Over the course of about two hours, we’re subjected to extreme stimulations of our auditive and intellective mechanisms. The first disc sounds a little more “acousmatic” (Northam and Grzinich’s “Moving masses” is a great piece indeed) with the tiniest details expertly manipulated and fused with impressive dynamic shifts in a series of (at times devastatingly) intense soundscapes, which should not delude those who lock themselves in their bedroom and listen to Hafler Trio all night long. Very cerebral, but hugely rewarding. The second disc is more vocally oriented but, believe me, it scathes. The adjective “vocal” is largely to be considered in the “strangled utterance” meaning here, and there are moments – especially in “Ephemera” – in which the schizophrenic cut’n’paste of abraded vowels, spitting syllables, gurgles and coughs becomes almost unbearable. Still, there are at least three compositions (“Situacta”, “Et quand, malgré tout” and “Un sifflement lointain”) that stand right there with the best studio-conceived visionariness heard in the last decade. I don’t like dividing the artists’ merits in such an instance; the whole set is absolutely gorgeous, and this Russian label shows how things should be done when trying to rekindle the flame characterizing the best expressions in these zones of sonic “entertainment”. For strong-nerved, mentally fine-tuned, inquisitive specimens.

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