VA: Nothing Works As Planned

Interval Recordings previously made a powerful impression with two inaugural releases, Amnon Wolman's Sustains and Mem1's Alexipharmaca, and sustains that impression with Nothing Works As Planned, a marvelous double-disc set of live recordings by nine composers and sound artists. The material—largely laptop-based electroacoustic works—was recorded at concerts in Tel Aviv and New York. The titular series premiered at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in a large set of galleries that were between exhibitions and therefore empty of art work. As a result, the composers' works were presented in an ideal cathedral-like setting where high ceilings and reverberant spaces lent themselves perfectly to sonic works featuring electronics, small ensembles, and video projections. The series continued with concerts at the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, New York and there too the setting proved ideal for the presentation of experimental music as the Issue Project Room is housed in a circular tower that was at one time a silo.

The collection opens with laptop pieces: a softly shimmering drone by Ido Govrin (“Limbo Sketches”) and Amnon Wolman's “Increased Fines,” a largely hymnal setting where soft tones drift like slow-motion phantoms until they're supplanted by anvil hammering. Jonathan Chen's “Three Switch-Hitters” follows a slightly more aggressive path into a brittle realm of hard-wired industrial electronics while Neil Leonard pairs his own long soprano sax tones with shuddering electronics in the ethereal “Echoes and Footsteps.”

The second disc's opening piece, Kiki Keren-Huss's fourteen-minute “Summer 2006, War” spins an intricate and hallucinatory web from a multi-layered mix of speaking voices, bird chirps, contrabassoon, and violin, with arresting contrasts generated by the juxtaposition of the contrabassoon's guttural honk and the violin's high-pitched creak. Performed by The Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, “Fire Mountain Intermezzo,” Beth Denisch's composition for string orchestra, naturally positions Nothing Works As Planned in closer proximity to the traditional classical orbit. Gilad Hildesheim showcases her formidable command of the violin in audacious works for violin and electronics by Arie Shapira and Keren Rosenbaum. The recording culminates with Yossi Mar-Chaim's jagged title piece and its stop-start collage of violin, contrabassoon, and electronics flourishes.

Nothing Works As Planned appeals on many levels: with one exception, the pieces are five to ten minutes long—long enough to accommodate exploration yet short enough that their welcome isn't overstayed; many pieces (disc one especially) opt for a meditative microsound style that rewards close listening; the presence of acoustic instruments (saxophone, contrabassoon, and violin) on certain pieces lends warmth and humanity to the recording's austere electronic content—all of which helps make Interval's third release an exceptional document of its distinctive brand of experimental music-making.

March 2008