Music Reviews

Artist: Hadas Pe'ery
Title: The Secret Lives Of Electromagnetic Transducers
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Elli
Despite being recorded live in 2017, the theory behind this work from Tel Aviv-based composer and sound artist Pe’ery seems to hark back to the boom days of the electronic avantgarde, around the 1960’s, give or take. The time when every expression seemed new, and every theatrical or obtuse idea seemed valid, and the acoustic was the norm and the electronic was the new.

Five performers of ‘real’ instruments (flute, trumpet, piano, guitar, and double bass) were surrounded by electro-magnetic transducers and speaker components, routed in obscure ways so that one output feeds into another, some transferring between instruments, and even with some speakers being worn around the necks of audience members. The players are then driven by impulse, focussed on varying levels of urgency rather than melody, for a stop-start six-part play of audio textures. It’s a sprightly conceit, that feels quite entertaining.

However the 40-minute sonic result, in six parts, does suffer a little from the sense of “you had to be there”. The recording quality is perfectly decent, but many of the sounds seem distant and any sense of intimacy has been lost. There’s a sense that a greater number of microphones recording the event might have aided this as a sonic product.

The playfulness is still rather endearing though. Part II feels especially melodramatic, as though it yearns to be loaned to the world of interpretative dance. The sporadic string work in Part III is somehow quite nostalgic, while Part V forefronts the electronics to increase the sci-fi factor, melding the electric buzz with the acoustic drone to strong effect, before embarking on a fast-cut series of international vocal sounds that forms the work’s most modern-sounding zone.

The most intriguing part, as well as the best sampler of the whole, is the spoken-word driven Part IV. Unprocessed and processed dialogue, described as “improvised text”, in a language I must apologise for not confidently recognising in full but which has the tonality of French, brings forward the sense of theatre that is then followed up by rapid-fire plucking and tweaking that best showcases the unorthodox staging of the instruments.

It’s avantgarde that’s old-fashioned, if that’s not a contradiction in terms, but there’s more than enough innovation within that context to make it worth checking out if that’s your bag.

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