Friday, November 27, 2020
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Oliver Leith: Balloon / Slide

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Artist: Oliver Leith
Title: Balloon / Slide
Format: 10"
Label: SN Variations
This short 10” release from London-based composer Oliver Leith was originally commissioned by the London Sinfonietta as an acoustic piece, performed at the Sound Unbound festival in 2019. This arrangement, however, has been reworked for “synthesizers of many tunings”.

Over the course of three parts, each a little under five minutes, it’s an interesting and somewhat pointed exercise in obtuse melodic tuning. Vaguely “ethnic-sounding” synth notes are played with some leisure, but also a fixed sense of discord, or if not discord, then at least something slightly ‘off’. The third part in particular feels like an odd pastiche of the Chinese pentatonic scale somehow.

Bonus piece “Slide” uses a similar source palette of Eastern-sounding notes and plucks. It’s one of Leith’s first purely electronic pieces and grew out of his discovery that on his old software, tweaking parameters with both a mouse and trackpad at the same time would cause jumps and glitches. Apparently a software update has put paid to this ‘feature’, which is certainly a shame, as the additional post-production trickery, and a few extra ambient noises, elevate it a level of interest above “Balloon”.

It’s a curious and compact little release, though it doesn’t bewitch either melodically or sonically.

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