Boomkat Product Review:
Second part to a momentous boxset of Xenakis’ C.20th electro-acoustic wonders, all newly mixed and remastered to celebrate the great polymath composer-architect’s 100th anniversary, on 29th May 2022
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.
Arriving in chronological order, part two of this comprehensive 5 x LP boxset to Xenakis’ electro-acoustic works covers a real golden patch between his seminal realisation of the Philips Pavilion with Le Corbusier for the World Expo in Brussels, 1958 and circa his best known work ‘Persepolis’, as commissioned by the Shah of Iran and due on the next volume. Specifically it spans 1969-1972, taking in the jaw-dropping shearing string dynamics and febrile rhythms of ‘Hibiki Hana-Ma’ (1969)’ to one of his all-time masterworks in 1972’s multimedia installation soundtrack ‘Polytope de Cluny’ with its shattered polymetric percussions, and the uncannily future-proofed play of chattering electronics, swooping subbass and cyclonic hornet-like swarms in ‘Mycenae Alpha’ (1978).
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.