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Signal to Noise, Issue # 50/ JuneJuly 2008 Print

«Circuit Breakers»

  • Darren Bergstein monitors electronic music’s vital signs  /  MCD1000 Poruganie Patsiphica [2005],  MCD1002 Paradigm Transition [2007], MCD1001 Untimely [2007]   eng.

Despite its “democratization” in the marketplace, obtaining Russian electronic music often requires both due diligence and patience to unearth the gems, but the search is not as daunting as it seems.

Though anonymous on this side of the pond Moscow-born composer Mikhail Chekalin’s been working his thing for 40 years, yet aside from 1993’s superb (and out of print) Night Pulsation, discographically all’s been quiet on the eastern front. Kudos then to Eurock honcho Archie Patterson for devoting his Mir sublabel strictly for launching Chekalin cocktails into our headspace, the initial three releases to date constituting a trilogy of sorts.

Common sonic aesthetics link them all; however, Chekalin’s restless, fairly gonzo spirit denies any sort of automatic gratification from preconceived comfort zones.

Paradigm Transition, veering from avant-symphonic strategies one minute to arcane, mutant post-Baroque electro-classicism the next, vaults about like a schizoid Vangelis out of his mind on psychedelic Soviet contraband.

Poruganie Patsiphika does likewise, stripping away the cold academic veneer from post-modern 20th century classical music by splicing electronics into a more freeform, compositional matrix; Chekalin’s a veritable Mother of Invention, molesting pianos, tossing horns about and plastering all sorts of synthetic mayhem across the stereo canvas with calculated, Zappafied glee.

Reaffirmations of such abound on Untimely, subtitled Music for Virtual Orchestra, whose preening metallic strings, farrago of Fairlightian brass, and smatterings of naggingly undefinable noises recall if anything Tod Machover’s generative computer-glove exaltations, more spank than Frank.

Densely plotted listening certainly, and an acquired taste, but tenuous comparisons aside, Chekalin remains a true (if sadly underrecognized) original. 

 
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