1994 Celestial Harmonies 14102 (CD)
With well over two decades of history releasing music on the cutting edge, Celestial Harmonies founder Eckart Rahn had to sort through hours of historically significant material for MUSIQUE MECHANIQUE, a double CD retrospective of influential electronic compositions. His music selection and sequence does not begin to cover the wealth of consequential material his labels have presented over the years. However, this collection does offer a worthy overview of the genre while also giving listeners a chance to experience some classic long–form pieces that travel deeply into the fabric of sound, time and space manipulation that is the hallmark of great electronic music.
Titled European Trance, disc one of MUSIQUE MECHANIQUE explores the early years of electronic music making when the first moog synthesizer arrived in Europe, ca. 1970. Florian Fricke was the man who owned it, and his initial experiments with the instrument gave birth to a highly individualistic musical expression. As the founder, keyboardist and spirit of Popol Vuh, this son of an opera singer changed the face of modern music with his powerful and evocative scores to Werner Herzog films. The title track to Herzog's Aguirre is a fitting opening to the first disc of MUSIQUE MECHANIQUE.
Fricke's Moog eventually became the property of another Munich musician, Eberhard Schoener, leading to the release of one of the first ever, all–electronic albums Meditation. His influential style is represented on this collection by the 23–minute electronic journey Mountain Music, which was recorded in 1973 on one of the first Fairlight synthesizers in Europe. Michael Hoenig, one of the first members of Tangerine Dream to strike out on his own, is best known for his classic 1976 trance record Departure From the Northern Wasteland. MUSIQUE MECHANIQUE features a 21–minute selection from this substantial electronic work. Disc one ends with a 17–minute composition by the German writer, lecturer, composer and improvisor extraordinaire Peter Michael Hamel, whose book Through Music To the Self (and early recordings with his group Between) consciously predicted and advocated a multi–cultural style of composition predating the current world music phenomenon by 20 years. Hamel's Apotheosis involves the most unusual combination of pipe organ with a highly sophisticated German synthesizer from the early '80s, the PPG Wave computer.
Though electronic artists in the United States initially followed the example set down by European trailblazers, they soon headed into new directions. Musicians who set the controls for the outer limits wound up seeking something more primordial. Through the innovations of Steve Roach, Kevin Braheny and Michael Stearns, the spirit of American pioneerism transformed into cyberspace as electronics brought them closer to the root sound and opened up a world of music that embraced the ancient past as well as the possible future. Disc two, Intercontinental Space, opens with Stearns' Labyrinth, taken from DESERT SOLITAIRE, the highly–regarded Roach–Stearns–Braheny album evoking the spirit of the American Southwest. Braheny's Desert Walkabout, also from that album, involves a similar excursion into the stark, foreboding side of the desert that seems to fascinate and attract these musicians. The same can be said of the title cut from WESTERN SPACES, an earlier sojourn into this world undertaken by Roach, Braheny and Richard Burmer.
Roach's experiences in the Southwest prepared him for his formidable odysseys into the Australian outback, resulting in an even more organic style of electronic–based music making. In the gutteral timbre of the didgeridoo, he found an analog to his own synthesizer drones and a more direct physical connection with the process of sound creation. This influential stylistic development is represented by two selections: A Circular Ceremony from his 1988 tour–de–force DREAMTIME RETURN, and the shamanistic sound ritual performed on Artifacts from 1993's ORIGINS.
The music of David Parsons is clearly linked spiritually and sonically to the United States continent, yet this New Zealand–based artist has brought in a whole other world of sound into the equation by virtue of his travels throughout India, Tibet and other destinations in Asia. His style is marked by an Eastern sense of time, the idea that music is always becoming, rather than arriving. His richly–hued internal landscapes are brought into focus by mixing Tibetan horns and chanting with his electronic sound designs. Two previously unissued tracks conclude disc two of MUSIQUE MECHANIQUE, although both Dakpa and Drilbu Ling could have stepped off the edge of his critically–acclaimed release Dorje Ling.
2.6, 2.7 previously unreleased