And now for something completely different. Not in the big, musical scheme of things, but for Damian Valles, an innovative and industrious ambient artist and producer living in the Ontario countryside, and who debuted only three short years ago. Excellent solo works including “Old Tin Will Cry” and “Skeleton Taxa” and “Monuments and Ruins” with England´s Talvihorros has revealed a keen sensitivity to texture and structure, but “Nonparallel (In Four Movements)” is nonpareil by dint of having been composed entirely out of sampled classical and computer music released by the Nonesuch label in the 1960s and 70s.
While samplers, plunderphonicians and other electronic musicians have broken ground here before him – the sadly under-available “Loops Over Land” (2001) by Andrew Deutsch, composed entirely from “the quiet bits” in Mahler´s ninth symphony, is an absolute masterpiece – Valles has harvested, handled and recontextualized selections by Elliot Carter, William Bolcom, Charles Ives, Charles Wuorinen, Stefan Wolpe and others with aplomb.
I do think Valles undermines his premise somewhat by allowing vinyl pop and hiss to play such a prominent role. Stating he wants to enter into the lineage of this music in order to create a dialogue, it risks being more of a dialogue between analogue and digital technologies. This does in no way however detract from the splendid listening experience that results, four ten-minute mirages of surface tension and even greater depth. Both ghostly and hauntological (in the original, structuralist sense – this present only exists because of its orientation to the past), Valles makes contemporary minimalists, even proto-industrialists in the final movement, of his predecessors and emulsifies a heady new ambient concoction, a milestone in a burgeoning career.