Boomkat Product Review:
First in an ever-necessary Xenakis reissue series scans for some of the great polymath’s earliest, seminal electro-acoustic works, which have held huge influence over the avant garde and new composition for over 65 years
As one of the most revered figures of the twentieth century avant-garde, and surely the only one to have studied with Messiaen and worked with Le Corbusier; Iannis Xenakis redrew the boundaries of sonic possibility with his pioneering, mathematically sound arrangements and brutalist electronic tonalities. By teaching or osmosis, his work has exerted just about as much influence on the avant-classical paradigms as the more untrained worlds of noise and DIY electronic experimentalism, with his anarchitextural approach to form and function breaking ground for everyone from Roland Kayn and John Zorn thru Hecker & Haswell to Lee Gamble and Rashad Becker (who did this remaster, naturally) in the contemporary field.
Sequenced in chronological order of the larger ‘Electroacoustic Works’ 5LP boxset (from which this set is extracted), these four pieces stake out a peerless radical approach to new music between the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, back when Xenakis began to combine his musical studies under Messiaen with his background in architecture as assistant to Le Corbusier, and the facilities of Paris’ GRM. What is perhaps most striking about these works is their clarity and spatial definition, which never feels as murky or even messy as much early electronics. With thanks to Rashad Becker’s remastering, everything from the alien dynamics of 1957’s ‘Diamorphoses’ to the shattered glass synthesis of ‘Concret PH’ (1958), thru the rowdy percussive ruptures of ‘Orient Occident’ (1961) and the almighty, roiling keen of his masterwork ‘Bohor’ (1962) sounds uncannily modern.
This is music that still beggars belief and shows up near everyone else, even 50 years since its creation, and remains remarkable testament to the Xenakis vision and diligence during an era when it was markedly more difficult to create music with so much bewildering dynamic. Safe to say it’s one for the ages and totally essential listening for electronic music fiends of the most insatiable type.