Wounded Breath

Wounded BreathErdem Helvacioǧlu’s most recent album, Wounded Breath, is quite different from his earlier Altered Realities, reviewed here. Wounded Breath is entirely electroacoustic, and quite strong, various, and enjoyable electroacoustic at that. The title piece is perhaps the most “traditional” one, though with Helvacioǧlu a genuinely inventive and quirky imagination always overrides any critical fluffery about genres or traditions.

The first piece, Below the Cold Ocean, begins very quietly—you don’t really know when it actually starts, it’s so soft—and then adds things quickly, but so subtly that before you know it, you’re listening to a dozen different things. The piece moves from one thing to many, dropping back again to one, several times throughout its eleven minutes. It’s an incredibly rich piece, but never dense, full of so many subtle little licks that it’ll likely seem as fresh on the twentieth hearing as on the first.

Dance of Fire opens with some mechanical sounds which are quickly, and briefly, replaced by static—it’s a lovely moment! But that’s just one trivial thing. The piece actually manages, without ever using “fire” sounds, to convey the dance of a fire. Not the sounds, but the overall logic of the piece, the way the sounds it does use appear and disappear, the way they interact with each other. The piece, in short, behaves like a fire without ever sounding like one.

Next is the baldly named Lead Crystal Marbles, a piece that does use marbles as its main source of sound. (Indeed, at one point, I was starting to suspect that marbles might be its only source of sound, as one of the high, soft electronic drones started sounding suspiciously like the sound of a rolling marble that I’d just heard a second or two before. But that’s as may be.) This, the longest track of the CD, is a fantasmagoria of whirling, clattering, bouncing marbles, with a variety of soft electronic drones just to ground things. This piece is quite various from the start, but as it goes on, the richer and more various the soundworld gets. The marbles, one way to put it, remain the same, but the surfaces they contact and the treatment of those acoustic sounds changes and gets more complex as the piece goes on.

Blank Mirror. A slow moving piece. Planes of sound, imposing and superimposing. Sometimes soft, sometimes louder. All very stately and majestic. I haven’t listened to it often enough to really say if this is so, but this is certainly the kind of piece that grows on you, becoming more beautiful and more alluring with each audition.

The sounds of Wounded Breath are the contrasting ones of rich, dark sounds and high, hard, bright sounds. It oscillates leisurely between complexity and simplicity, between tension and relaxation. Its use of tones (synchronous pitches) gives it a certain quality of ambiguity that while natural to electroacoustic music (which can throw anything together) is not always so cunningly or winningly presented. It’s a lovely piece and a perfect ending to a lovely album.

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One Comment

  1. seano
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Nice cuts.

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