AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Olivia Block – Aberration of Light (2015; NNA Tapes)

unnamedChicago’s Olivia Block is an overlooked electroacoustic composer, who has been active for a number of years combining avant-garde classical music with noise in a creative fashion. This cassette-only, single-track release is an updated version of a 2011 four-speaker soundtrack she contributed to a cinematic work.

Ms. Block uses electronics and mechanical sound recordings, as well as clarinet and bass clarinet from Chicagoans James Falzone and Jason Stein. But this recording explores silence, providing undulating interludes of barely-audible oscillations. From these quiet periods, Aberration of Light builds into crescendos of dense structures reminiscent of both oncoming thunderstorms, as well as otherworldly sounds from outer space. But for the most part, this release demands close attention with its subtle textures, perhaps designed to blend into the now-pervasive background hum of electronics. Nonetheless, toward the end of the piece, Ms. Block unleashes a hellscape of cracking, rolling electroacoustic sounds which would not be out of place on a Xenakis recording.

If a musical piece is a journey, this one smoothly traverses several disparate geographical regions – not all of of which are hospitable to life. Be that as it may, there are many layers to peel back – Aberration of Light is a topography well-worth exploring.

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