October 11, 2020
Carrier Records 050
Wedding his oboe and English horn prowess to live electronics, Oakland-based Kyle Bruckmann mingles these interests during four compositions that impress with audacity and intensity. Bruckmann who moves between improvised and notated electro-acoustic music has worked with the likes of ROVA and Myra Melford. But this CD is a solo effort with acoustic instruments abetted by synthesizer-directed fragmentation of pre-recorded material, played back in random cycles to invoke real-time instrumental responses.
Two versions of a composition honoring the metafiction novelist are the most representative since one is dubbed “live electronics” and the other “oboe/English horn”. But it’s a tribute to Bruckmann’s insights that the second version doesn’t sound more prominently acoustic than the first. In fact the source material from the composer’s first album that was chopped up and distorted on “A Spurious Autobiography for John Barth (live electronics version)” still pivots to sounds that could come from bagpipe-like airs, reed overblowing or tolling bells as much as peeps, crackles and motorized pitch changes that judder and buzz alongside flanged swells. A stringent drone marks the ending. Similarly, “A Spurious Autobiography for John Barth (oboe/English horn version)” may feature flutter tonguing and reed trilling. But during the exposition dial-twisted drones, metallic resonation and electronic whizzes appear as prominent as any acoustic instrument detours. Additionally these reed tongue-stops and altissimo echoes default to suggestions of wolf-like cries and aviary twitters before reaching a crescendo of affiliated timbres.
“An Extruded Introversion for Blixa Bargeld” named for the Einstürzende Neubauten keyboardist, follows a comparable electronic path, But it’s “A Fuzzy Monolith for James Turrell”, which perhaps reflecting the American artist’s fascination with light, skyscapes and earth tunnels, contains an enhanced palate of effects. After hushed or ear-splitting tones succeed one another they undulate into an overriding horizontal theme, as processed reed timbres are emphasized, vanish and return. By the three-quarter mark a pastoral sequence signals the finale, with razor-thin reed squeezes as a coda.
Although oriented towards the electro-acoustic fancier, the challenges resolved here should also be relevant to other music followers.
Track Listing: 1. A Spurious Autobiography for John Barth (live electronics version) 2. An Extruded Introversion for Blixa Bargeld 3. A Spurious Autobiography for John Barth (oboe/English horn version) 4. A Fuzzy Monolith for James Turrell
Personnel: Kyle Bruckmann (oboe, English horn and live electronics)