Boomkat Product Review:
Over a decade since he began ripping/restitching post-punk/industrial/EBM templates, Powell turns to contemporary avant-classical with his multi-channel commission for an LCO sextet, recorded at a 24-hour concert in 2022 and here reduced to stereo and mastered by Russell Haswell
“Diagonal return after a two year break for babies and growing up with a stunning multi-channel recording of a performance by Powell and London Contemporary Orchestra at Barbican Centre in January, 2022. Spanning 37 minutes, Twenty-Six Lives accelerates Powell’s recent line of escape to who-knows-where via a sound with rare conceptual and emotional power. Presented here in special edition PMS 910c sleeve, the music traverses hi-def electronics, extreme computer music and cloud composition, and was performed as part of LCO’s seminal 24-hour concert in 2022 that featured electro-acoustic works by John Cage, Éliane Radigue, Mica Levi, Alvin Lucier, Morton Feldman, Michael Gordon, and James Tenney.
Twenty-Six Lives is not an album of electronics and orchestra, but one where the fusion of soundworlds is complete, with no clear demarcations between the two, and where it’s unclear whether sounds are produced acoustically or digitally, creating a living dance between synthetic and real-world instrumentation. The ‘lives’ have been liberated from the original three-hour performance, dutifully recorded in multi-channel, edited into a single flow, and lovingly mastered by Russell Haswell. They only have beginnings, middles and ends in so far as the actors started or stopped playing. The artwork by Guy Featherstone contains parts of the instrumental score written by LCO founder and director Robert Ames, the structure of which is reminiscent of those from core minimalist compositions, operating as a sequence of short transcribed objects which will never be played the same twice. The instruments include double bass, cello, viola, clarinet, flute and percussion, all exploited for their timbres and acoustic envelopes.
There are gossamer shimmers, strings soaring, wild spatial movements, light beams, frothing clouds and occasional outpourings of acid rain; splintered rhythms somehow recall Powell’s earliest bone-dry mechanisations on Diagonal. A text-to-speech rendering of a written object from his ever-inflating a folder idea [afolder.studio] also rears its head. Twenty-Six Lives marks a wildly conceptual and musically ambitious new phase in the life of a fully revitalised artist who continues to challenge the constructions and conventions of how we make and listen to sound.”