INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Los Angeles Times JULY 16, 2000 - by Josef Woodard
FINDS FROM A PRE-DIGITAL AGE UNEARTHED
For decades, electronic and experimental musics have evolved in an underground world of academic laboratories and avant-garde studios. But all it takes is a hint of interest from the pop culture world to inspire search-and-rescue missions into the vaults - and that is the back story behind this fascinating new three-CD package. Its release comes, in part, as a byproduct of the "electronica" movement - the general intrigue with the first generations of electronic music among a younger generation for whom sampling and synthesis are commonplace.
Clocking in at more than three hours, the package still serves as only a cursory overview of a rich, hidden culture. Proto-electronic instruments, including the eerie-sounding theremin and the ondes martenot (made famous by Olivier Messiaen and horror movies), and the "found sound" manipulations of musique concrete pioneer Pierre Schaeffer open the survey.
Along the way, through more than forty tracks, we hear brief examples of work from Vladimir Ussachevsky, Morton Subotnick, Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Alvin Lucier, John Cage and more. Among the highlights: an early Steve Reich experiment and Robert Ashley's hypnotically mumbly sound poetry Automatic Writing. The package ends anticlimactically, with less adventuresome groove- and pop-driven tracks from Klaus Schulze, Jon Hassell and Brian Eno. But then, it's accessible work such as this that ensnares a broader audience and makes this sort of package available in the first place.
It's fitting that the Ohm compilation has come out on Ellipsis Arts, a label that specialises in shining a light on world music and other esoteric cultural crannies. However accidentally popular electronic music may become, it's no doubt always going to define a world of its own. This album is a fine primer on the pre-digital wonders of that world.