Review of The Gorilla Variations [12k2013]

Boomkat (UK)

Followers of electronic music should already be acquainted with the distinguished output of musician and sound artist Stephen Vitiello. His work has previously been published via labels such as Sub Rosa, while sound installations have been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial. Add to this collaborations with Machinefabriek and Lawrence English and Vitiello’s CV reads very nicely indeed. Molly Berg comes from a very different background, having previously appeared on recordings by Cracker and Magnolia Electric Co. songwriter Jason Molina. The two Virginia-based artists came together for a soundtrack project commissioned by Brazilian video artist Eder Santos, whose video portrait of a lonely, zoo-dwelling gorilla (named Idi Amin) was the starting point. Although only a three-minute piece was required of the duo, they improvised their way through forty minutes of guitar, clarinet, vocals, field recording and electronics, the results of which then became the basis for this charming and beguiling album. The sound field on The Gorilla Variations carries an enormous amount of depth, with each piece representing a finely tuned balance of instrumentation, processing and sounds from the natural world. Above all else this is an approachably musical album, casting electroacoustics in a wholly accessible light – the pieces each take their different instrumental focuses and delve into collaged composition, playing melody against acousmatic timbre for a sonically gratifying intertwining of song structure and soundscape. Highly recommended.

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