Music Reviews

Artist: Carl Stone
Title: Electronic Music From The Eighties And Nineties
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Unseen Worlds
A triple-LP collection of Stone’s “Electronic Music from the Seventies” has here been followed up by a equally imaginatively-titled sequel, but it seems there was less to work with this time as it spans two decades but only stretches to two pieces of vinyl.

After the relatively familiar-sounding slow and mesmeric soft chords, vocal ahhhs and faintly ambient-lounge-jazz of the only ‘90s piece “Banteay Sray” (1993), it’s the 1980’s works that are the more interesting.

The slightly more plinky-plonk keyboard structures of “Sonali” which has a decidedly early-80’s-Tangerine-Dream flavour to it, but which grows its own distinctive character by a very nicely handled processed and looped vocal chant and a fairly unique progression into more chaotic juxtaposed melodic patterns. Things take a particularly appealing twist and turn towards the end of this track when glitched operatic samples arrive and gradually dominate the finale. For a piece composed in 1988, this glitchy approach to gating and sampling was massively ahead of its time.

1983’s “Woo Lee Oak” takes the long sustained sound of panpipes- which at the time hadn’t yet become the New Age cliché they were to become- and draws them out with suspense-laden string tones into a building melée of overlapping complex harmony.

Previously unreleased 1984 track “Mae Yao” is also eye-opening, using similar cut-up and micro-sampling techniques (that 15 years later BT would claim to invent and call granular synthesis), opening with a deeply raw and sparse cacophony of sound ordering before returning, fairly abruptly, in the second half to longer more drawn-out atmospheres and synthetic melodic pad layering where the sampling becomes a decoration rather than the core.

I have to confess to being unaware of Carl Stone’s work prior to this promo, but what’s on display here is a real eye-opener- long experimental electronic pieces which, while still clearly capable of being placed in the timeline of 70’s and 80’s experimental music history, also sounds fantastically ahead of its time. I must check out more Stone works, not solely for any pretentious reason of cultural importance but because, as well as being very surprising, they’re also a very pleasant listening experience.

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