Boomkat Product Review:
Mind-bending, phantastically dark and complex spectral music for 16 grand pianos, saxophone and electronics, from Romania’s Horatio Radelescu, originally issued on the crucial Edition RZ label in 1990 amidst their rather important early streak of releases. Includes bilingual (German/English) liner notes. RIYL Iancu Dumitrescu, Iannis Xenakis, Reinhold Friedl, Autechre
His solo debut LP upon issue in 1990, the two pieces on Clepsydra / Astray arguably amount to Radulescu’s definitive early works, following an impenetrably technical approach to achieve highly idiosyncratic and distinguished results which place him among the most important practitioners of the tricky-to-define spectral music - a form of computer-aided electro-acoustic composition that “foregrounds timbre as an important element of structure or language” and rooted in earlier ideas by Xanakis, Stockhausen, Varèse et al.
Like we say, by its nature, it’s as tricky to define the parameters of spectral music as it is to define the notion of timbre, but the composer himself has a very good stab at it in the sleeve notes, which are among the most literally technical and baffling we’ve encountered.
However, from what we can make out, the astonishing Clepsydra, written for 16 Sound Icons - or 16 grand pianos tilted on their side and played with bows - is conceptually based around the titular, ancient greek water clock mechanism, and explores a jaw-dropping, flowing spectra of glistening, garrotting and razor sharp strings creating a 22 minute experience akin to K-holing in a gyroscope around a hall of mirrors. Queasy as hell, but rewarding with it for those with a constitution for such stuff.
By contrast the dynamic of Astray, premiered in 1984 and written for identical duos of saxophonist playing six saxes (bass, baritone, tenor, alto, soprano, and sopranino) and another on Sound Icon (grand piano turned on its side), but with each duo playing at different speeds, explores another set of timbral integers with seemingly more space in the mix, to more inquisitive, coolly probing effect.
A remarkable slab by any standards. Recommended!