Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Springtime Super-Fun-Pak! NZ Electroacoustic on CD

It's Springtime for Electroacoustic Nerds in New Zealand! And there is no better soundtrack for that garden party, barbecue, or kegger than the classic period of NZ academic electroacoustic. These four albums are from a series of six or seven CDs released in 1993 by CD Manu. All feature gorgeous cover photography from Theo Schoon, the Java-born Nederlander who made a huge -- though often forgotten -- impact on the New Zealand visual art world upon his immigration in 1939. These CDs are out of print, but you can still pick up new and used copies on Amazon or Discogs, ranging from US$1.50 for a used Ross Harris 'Inner Worlds' CD to US$68.00 for a new copy of Jack Body's 'Suara'.

Jack Body - Suara: Environmental Music From Java (1978-1990)
Jack Body is often considered the most accomplished of living NZ composers, in terms of his national and international standing. His work has remained experimental from the beginning, though not relentlessly intimidating to the public, as shown by his most enduring composition: the theme song to the soap opera 'Close to Home.'  His work never seems to stray from celebrating the beautiful in  sound. Like John Cousins, many of his compositions involve manipulated field recordings and human voice, but rather than devising from these an unsettling alien soundtrack, Body finds lyricism and musicality in his sources.

Balloon Squeaker

John Rimmer - Fleeting Images (1979-1991)
Of the artists in this post, Rimmer was most devoted during this early time period to the integration of electronic and traditional musical instruments. His 'Compositions' series include works for wind quintet and electronic sounds, percussion and electronic sounds, piano and electronic sounds. On this CD of entirely electroacoustic compositions, Rimmer employs analog, digital, and computer synthesis, short-wave radio, percussion, guitar, field recordings and voice. This is a rich and thought-provoking set of experiments by a composer driven by the leading edge of synthesis technology.

Religion Without Science

John Cousins - Sleep Exposure (1979-1986)
John Cousins' work consistently stupefies me. His main instrument is the oldest of all -- the human voice -- but he employs it in a way which is utterly jarring. With a dictaphone, a delay, some filtering and panning, and maybe a few other toys, he creates unsettling non-linear narratives which are almost more like dance or theatre than sound art or music. Funny, frustrating, and plain old f'ed up, these tracks are as fossilic and foreign as this other f-word: fremd. Highly recommended, difficult stuff.

Don't Stop The Tape, Don't Stop The Tape!

Ross Harris - Inner Worlds (1978-1990)
Ross Harris' practice is aligned with Jack Body's in his pursuit of beauty, and through the use of non-Western instrumentation combined with electronic techniques. This CD comes closest of this group to approaching the dreaded designator, 'New Age', but it retains enough tension and complexity to completely disallow for a lazy chill-out. His 1978 track 'Syndrum', included here, deserves to be sampled by a knowing NZ electro producer.

Twilight Fleeting


  1. Thanks for this outstanding collection of NZ Musique concrète!
    I wish I could listen to the other volumes from the same series: David Downes – Saltwater, Denis Smalley - Tides & Kil Dyett - Wallpaper music
    Did you already listen to them?

  2. I haven't heard the other volumes. I've concentrated on these four artists as they are more located in the context of the other documents I'm posting of New Zealand classical & electroacoustic history. If you find them, blog them, and link to here! Cheers.

  3. Here is a youtube link for a Denis Smalley track from his CD, 'Tides':

  4. I may have sourced and I'm hoping to add David Downes – Saltwater, Denis Smalley - Tides, & Kim Dyett - Wallpaper Music to the blog in coming months. Stay tuned!