Confluence by “The Circular Ruins” (Anthony Paul Kerby) In the Bubble Music, 2002 http://www.virunis.com From the understated, tasteful design of the CD label, with its pattern-from-nature photo and its sandy monochrome, you would think that this album would be yet another dose of familiar “desert spacemusic” with its distant bongo drums, clinking stones, rattles, and floating chords. Well, surprise it’s nothing like that. Instead, you’ll want to take out your German-techno dictionary to appreciate this hard-edged set of trancey electronic rhythm pieces. The usual graphics for this are blurred, garish pictures of neon-lit cities at night with indecipherable text, which the producers have fortunately avoided. “The Circular Ruins” title comes from a story by the Argentinian surrealist writer Jorge Luis Borges, and the liner notes contain quotes from Borges and e.e.cummings. An erudite presentation, for sure. Anthony Paul Kerby, one of the talented electronic set of “In the Bubble” which also includes “Vir Unis” (John Strate-Hootman), the “Ma Ja Le” duo and James Johnson, concentrates on rhythm, all of it electronic. Melodic elements are minimalized, though they are present enough to give the work structure. He layers the held notes and the synthesized rhythms with lots of electronic squeals, hisses, modified voice samples, special effects, and environmental sounds. My choice for best cut on the album is the mind-warping track 4, “Cathedral.” This piece of trancery mixes a simulated “pipe-organ” sound in minor, “gothic” tones with lines of metallic drones and whines, then runs it alongside a relentless electronic beat that stays throughout the 17 minutes of the piece. What makes this more interesting than the usual Euro-techno drone piece is that Kerby chooses to mix in bizarre little bits of environmental sound, for instance the cheerful song of a house wren. It’s strange and unnerving to hear the pastoral sounds of splashing water and chirping birds alongside the sterile, mechanical sounds of the synthesizers. It makes the piece a weird mixture of the cheerful and the ominous. No, pretty desert ambient music this ain’t. Comfort and contemplation are not found in the Circular Ruins. But if you have the adventurous taste to listen to edgy, ironic, urban, hard-driving, abstract sound, this is something for you. Hannah M.G. Shapero 5/5/02
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