Music Reviews

Artist: Iannis Xenakis
Title: Persepolis
Format: LP
Label: Karl
Previous, now out-of-print issues of Xenakis’ 1971 work “Persepolis” are something of a rarity, going for quite substantial figures on sites like Discogs even though they suffer, apparently, from errors or abridgements that mean they don’t represent the complete work. Now, Karl Records have arrived with a newly remastered and apparently complete 55-minute LP & download issuing it in all its glory.

In nine numbered but continuous parts, it’s an electroacoustic assault of metallic drones and scratches, heavily processed noises and somewhat tortured organic noises. It’s a wilful wall of noise that’s staggering for 1971, taking the still-fresh experimental avantgarde principles and pushing them to what must at that time of been their logical extreme- a completely space-free, densely packed overlapping of layers into something so relentless and impenetrable that when you listen to it, after a while you stop hearing the full extent of the noise and start zoning in on some of the details as though you’re watching one particular piece of shrapnel in a huge explosion.

It’s only in the details that individual parts could be identified with care. The third part, for example, with strained and stretched bowing of string instruments, is notably disorientating. The fifth part, with occasional echoing noises like seatbelt signs creating a sonic aeroplane nightmare, while the sixth part sounds like some of the Lygeti music in 2001: A Space Odyssey would have sounded if the composer had decided it wasn’t yet extreme enough. The final part is a touch more percussive, with a steady sense of upward sliding that creates an escalating tension that never truly resolves, just bluntly stops.

Even without exploring the political context of the original work that could have been seen as shockingly secular when first performed, it’s unquestionably ahead of its time and still challenging almost 50 years later, clearly a milestone in electroacoustic music, and with a very nice new presentation too.

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