Boomkat Product Review:
Invaluable reissue of Phillip Werren’s impossibly rare and astounding boxset ‘Electronic Music’, which was self-released in edition of only 100 in 1971, and has been out of print ever since. Mint original copies are known to trade for over £2K, so this reissue is a unmissable opportunity to own and hear this set at a fraction of that price.
So, we’ve had Roland Kayn’s ’Simultan’ boxset, now it’s time to scan even farther back into electronic music’s rarest nooks with Phillip Werren’s ‘Electronic Music’, a collection of eight uniquely distinguished longform works for Buchla System 100, Moog modular, and tape, which only exist on this format, and demonstrate some of the farthest reaches of music made on synth and sequencers by 1970.
Canadian composer Phillip Werren, a graduate of Yale (B.A. 1964) and Princeton (M.F.A. 1966) realised the visionary scapes of ‘Electronic Music’ while he was artist in residence at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Communications and the Arts from 1968 to 1971. While his previous work was written for voice, strings, and pianos, from 1968 onwards he made a concerted foray into composing with electronic instruments, synthesisers and sequencers, resulting one of early electronic music’s most sought-after and near-mythical releases.
Inspired by the occult, in particular the writings of W.B. Yeats, as well as the exponential possibilities opened by the political upheaval of ’68 and newly emerging technology, Werren sought to create a music which put his extensive studio skills to the test, while also reflecting the world around him, both internal and external. Expanding upon his previous work on a radio play of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Cascando’ with Wilfrid Mennell, and also collaborating with linguist Philippa Polson, Werren would follow his nose into the kind of stark, sheer, alien electronic dimensions already opened up by Xenakis, Stockhausen, or Gottfried Michael Koenig, and, in the process, he arguably paved the way for the likes of Roland Kayn’s algorithmic AI works in years to come (coincidentally or not).
Spanning Werren’s first significant electronic piece, ‘Phases’ - a dedication to the poetry of Yeats recorded between 1969-1970 and split over the first 2.5 plates - through to the pomp of ‘Heroica’, the mind-bending atonal abstract ‘Polish Wedding Music’, the scrambled pulses of ‘Dance Music’, and the Eliane Radigue-esque microtonal squabble of ‘Vortex’, this will be at least the first chance any of us has to hear this album, not to mention own it. For everyone from completists to good old fashioned electronic music enthusiasts, this set is just unmissable.