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Thread: Olivia Block/Natasha Barrett twofer

  1. #1
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    Olivia Block/Natasha Barrett twofer

    AMN Reviews: Olivia Block – Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea (2021; Room40); Natasha Barrett/Tanja Orning-Symbiosis (Bandcamp; 2002)





    The title, as well as the artwork to Oliva Block’s latest album is…deceiving. The high-key photo of a sea faring vessel floating serenely on a calm, flat body of water with either a small Island (or maybe that’s a glacier) in the near distance immediately elicits thoughts of serenity and peacefulness. The music; well not so much.

    Let’s look at this a different way. The vessel is icebound and stranded, held fast in the frigid cold grip of a sea transforming itself into a desolate ice field. A sun, slowly blotted out by humanities excesses’ refuses to provide its warm sustenance to a world rapidly descending towards frozen dark grey nothingness. My experience after several listening’s of Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea leans decidedly towards this door number two.

    Obviously, pandemic influenced art is going to have its dark edges, often rooted in speculative fiction tropes. On this release…Block’s dark edges are drawn with one of those mondo, uber rank and putrid, king-sized black Sharpies. The composer states that during lockdown, much of her listening was done while on psychedelic mushrooms with the intention of achieving a maximum somatic awareness. What better way to achieve this then to key into the bass frequencies? You want to feel it in you body? Embrace the deeps! (Something that Natasha Barrett excels at, see below.)

    It’s no wonder that the pieces on this album have a significant synthesized bass presence. What’s particularly notable is how this subterranean foundation contrasts with the higher end layers of sonic mayhem above it. Tracks like “Axiolite” and (especially) “Laika” positively scream in their intensity while later tracks smolder and burn in their own “end of days” mind movie sequence. Block lays impossibly thick blankets of sound/drone over this low-end bedrock leaving a berserker-like wasteland in its wake.

    Is Innocent Passage in the Territorial Sea a red pill, force fed to the listener during these times? You’ll have to tell me. What I can say is that it’s one of the finest, albeit ill-boding pieces of modern sound art I’ve heard in awhile. My highest recommendation!


    https://natashabarrett.bandcamp.com/...symbiosis-2002 (sorry, I couldn't get the BC link to embed itself)


    Symbiosis was composed by Barrett back in 2002 and was originally released on Orning’s Cellotronics album in 2005. This version has updated electronics and is a terrific 18-minute portrait of Barrett’s use of current sound processing and spatialization technology along with Orning’s fiery cello playing. I’ve never heard the 2005 release so I can’t compare the two.

    What I can say is Symbiosis is yet another extremely strong release from the Barrett camp. To think that she has since followed this up with a full-length album (Heterotopia, write-up coming) on the Persistence of Sound label has uplifted her output to the “embarrassment of riches” level.

    Symbiosis, defined as a mutually beneficial interaction between two different organisms within proximity is an apt title on a couple of levels. Obviously, the cello/electronics fusing works beautifully here. Taken separately, Orning’s very dexterous and quite aggressive attack plays very nicely with Barrett’s own unique sound processing. If you are familiar with Barrett’s recent work (like the amazing Leap Seconds album, for example) you’ll find that many of her hallmark motifs make an appearance here. Subsonic thunder, ghostly voices at times insubstantial, barely corporeal at other times, relentless and driving waves of mechanical contraptions, veneer’s of eerily sustained mid-ranged drones, violent, gasp inducing crescendos of processed sounds…all essential parts and pieces are here, and they are all moved around the listening landscape compliments of her deft mixing. Barrett’s idea of spatialization, and her ability to create a breathtaking 3-D sonic space are in full bloom on this release.

    So, the symbiotic act displayed here works flawlessly but, what about the result? The parts and process are one thing…the final creation is something else completely. Remember, symbiosis is MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL for both parties. Experiencing Symbiosis from a perspective of a single “new” entity (and maybe a new way of “hearing” it) is as much of a rewarding journey as breaking it down into its separate parts. For me, this meant hearing it a few times since it’s very hard NOT to hear (and marvel at, I might add) the individual inputs from Barrett and Orning. Unsurprisingly, the transformed work is more than its individual parts. In the case of Symbiosis, we are left with a stunning work that succeeds on an emotional, physical and imaginative level and receives a two strong thumbs-up recommendation.


    Best
    Michael
    Last edited by neuroticdog; 01-11-2022 at 06:27 PM.
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

  2. #2
    The Natasha Barrett is a new one on me, but I'm definitely fond of the Oliva Block (as you already know ). And I also still really love her contribution to the Longform Editions label: https://oliviablock.bandcamp.com/track/october-1984
    If you're actually reading this then chances are you already have my last album but if NOT and you're curious:
    https://battema.bandcamp.com/

    Also, Ephemeral Sun: it's a thing and we like making things that might be your thing: https://ephemeralsun.bandcamp.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by battema View Post
    The Natasha Barrett is a new one on me, but I'm definitely fond of the Oliva Block (as you already know ). And I also still really love her contribution to the Longform Editions label: https://oliviablock.bandcamp.com/track/october-1984
    Hey John, yeah...I think I'm pretty much the "army of me" when it comes to Natasha and, I'll be the first to admit that any given release by her is, well...work. They are for the most part difficult listens but, that being said...the payoff they hold goes beyond any imaginable "trip" that music has taken me on that I can think of. I know that sounds heinously hyperbolic but it is a truth for me.

    They are getting easier though because I've now come to expect what to hear, what to listen for. Symbiosis, as I said, does draw a lot from earlier pieces, only organized in a different way. There are sounds that I recognize from other works that have been re-purposed to suit this one. I continue to think she is one of the truly innovative, groundbreaking artists working in the Acousmatic space and, at least right now, no one even comes close. To her, it's all about bringing the idea of spatialization to new levels...which is basically what the whole genre is about...she seems to have found the golden ticket.

    Yeah, I'm aware of of your fondness for OB, I haven't downloaded it yet but I've listened to it and that contribution to the Longform Editions is pretty spectacular!!! This release has the name BATTEMA written all over it too!

    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

  4. #4
    Heh, well I'm adding Ms. Barrett to my wishlist to explore further

    And Longform Editions is wonderful. Paid for the subscription and have never regretted it.
    If you're actually reading this then chances are you already have my last album but if NOT and you're curious:
    https://battema.bandcamp.com/

    Also, Ephemeral Sun: it's a thing and we like making things that might be your thing: https://ephemeralsun.bandcamp.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by battema View Post
    Heh, well I'm adding Ms. Barrett to my wishlist to explore further
    I'm sure I'm repeating myself from one of my many older posts about her but if you are going to explore further, don't start with the Bandcamp selections (with the exception of Heterotopia which WOULD be a decent place to start, but not the best place).

    They are great, but go back a bit in her catalog and start with any (or all) of these:

    Kraftfelt
    Trade Winds
    Isostasie

    ...and then make the jump to Leap Seconds which was my favorite release from 2021.

    I've written about her extensively, here is a link for the index page on the Avant Music news site that will point to all the reviews I've done. The one I just did for Symbiosis (above) will be added probably today or tomorrow.

    https://avantmusicnews.com/?s=natasha+barrett

    That's the way I'd approach her

    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

  6. #6
    Boo! walt's Avatar
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    Loving the Olivia Block cd.I'll give the Barrett a listen.
    "please do not understand me too quickly"-andre gide

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    Quote Originally Posted by walt View Post
    Loving the Olivia Block cd.I'll give the Barrett a listen.
    Hi Walt,

    Not surprised at this at all. I think many people who read PE that have a more "avant" bias would love the OB release. I even think it would appeal to people who like Art Zoyd and UZ...it's got a lot of things going for it.

    ...and btw...

    one does not simply "give a listen to Barrett"



    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

  8. #8
    Boo! walt's Avatar
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    ^^^^^I'll use both ears while i play the Barrett track.

    "please do not understand me too quickly"-andre gide

  9. #9
    Boo! walt's Avatar
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    Re: Olivia Block.

    I sent a friend this track from "Innocent Passage.." and he bought the cd on that basis.

    "please do not understand me too quickly"-andre gide

  10. #10
    I found the other Barrett titles on 7 Digital...not my first choice for purchasing downloads but if Bandcamp comes up blank, they'll do
    If you're actually reading this then chances are you already have my last album but if NOT and you're curious:
    https://battema.bandcamp.com/

    Also, Ephemeral Sun: it's a thing and we like making things that might be your thing: https://ephemeralsun.bandcamp.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by battema View Post
    I found the other Barrett titles on 7 Digital...not my first choice for purchasing downloads but if Bandcamp comes up blank, they'll do
    Wish I saw this earlier, I don't know if you have a 5.1 rig but if you do, you may want to get the physical of Kraftfelt and Trade Winds as they are both in surround as well as 2 channel.

    I can tell you that if you appreciate a good surround mix...both of these sound ridiculously good.

    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

  12. #12
    Oooooh, good call!
    If you're actually reading this then chances are you already have my last album but if NOT and you're curious:
    https://battema.bandcamp.com/

    Also, Ephemeral Sun: it's a thing and we like making things that might be your thing: https://ephemeralsun.bandcamp.com

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    Sorry for all the back and forth between me and John but one more bit of Barrett info...

    As far as her 2021 release Leap Seconds goes, as I said, it was my favorite release of last year, and if you buy the physical product from Sargasso (the label) they will send you a link to download it in binaural. (I assume they are still doing this, I bought it when it first came out early last year).

    A few of Barrett's releases on Band Camp are also in binaural and for my money, that is my preferred way of listening to them. I don't want to sound like a total "YOU WILL LISTEN TO IT THIS WAY OR YOU WILL BE SHIPPED TO A GULAG IN SIBERIA" type of snob but these binaural mix's are the absolute shit!!!

    Given the fact that she is very "concerned" with the concept of spatialization, it's no wonder that these should be heard either binaurally or in 5.1 if available. The binaural mix for Leap Seconds is completely out of this world, out of the known universe for that matter.

    So, if you get this release, ditch the loud speakers, throw on the phones and go somewhere you never travelled...and I guarantee it will be a different place each time you hear it.

    best
    Michael
    If it ain't acousmatique-It's crap

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