Drone Records
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Format: 5 x CD
Label & Cat.Number: Silverdoor SIDO 003-007CD
Release Year: 2013
Note: epic work from 1999 by the prolific Irish composer with the tracks / CDs symbolizing architectural spaces and rooms within a fictitious city, along with music from a radio station of the tower of Babel... => strange electronic music with various interconnections and relations, a thoughtful play with music and cultural myths, a very broad musical approach from strange pop music to cut up sounds and musique concrete pieces, challenging and complex!! Comes with 12p. booklet
Price (incl. 19% VAT): €35.00

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"This is a phenomenal listening experience of Wagnerian dimensions from composer Roger Doyle — and, arguably, also one of Wagnerian ambitions. Each of the five discs is separately titled: “Temple Music”; “Chambers & Spirit Levels”; “Delusional Architecture”; “Earth at Full-Moon”; “Leisure Pursuits.” The idea is that each piece in the first three discs is seen as an individual “room” within an overall city (Babel). Some are more explicitly physical spaces (“The Stairwell”; “Mrs Brady’s Room”, “The Dressing Room”) than others. Both discs two and three begin with “Entry Level” tracks, comprising montages of other music from the “house.” The final two discs are supposedly from a (fictitious) radio station of the Tower of Babel, KBBL.

The whole concept is amazing. Pieces are interlinked not just via the translocation of snippets, but via imagined stories (an instrumentalist heard in one track might be warming up for his/her solo in another track, for example). The rooms of the tower are individually characterized, along with the invocation of a panoply of imagined spaces: the orientalisms of the initial “Concert Music — Pagoda Charm,” for example. Doyle’s composition is virtuosic; his imagination seems to know no bounds. His technique of voice cut-ups and snippets of sound, which seems to owe a debt to the electronic music of Stockhausen, is perhaps heard in its purest form in “The Room of Rhetoric” from the “Chambers and Spirit Levels” section. At one point it seems to threaten to quote (or even morph into) Gesang der Jünglinge ; the vocal slides (near-groans) of the next track, “Spirit Levels I-IV” seem to link to the sliding God names of another Stockhausen piece, Stimmung . Yet while there are debts here, the “Cantilena” from “Temple Music” reminds us that, while using gestures linked to this composer, Doyle has a voice all of his own.

Doyle’s music can be tremendously evocative. The use of solo horn in the nocturnal scene that is “Yummus” from “Temple Music” works extremely well. He can do delicacy, too: the keening phrases of “The Stairwell” from “Chambers & Spirit Levels” are a case in point. But it is the unpredictability of much of what we hear, coupled with the ability to create a whole new individual universe, is what appeals here.

Finally, for Babel , the disc entitled, “Delusional Architecture.” The next track, “Dark Scenery Court Games,” seems to hearken back initially to the orientalisms of the opening of “Temple Music” before gaining its own trajectory. Drums seem to introduce a more primal, human element (the overall impression so far is, unsurprisingly, otherworldly); electronic slashings seem to seek to counteract the tendency to bring the music to Earth and its inhabitants. But for sheer zaniness, “Vertical Figures in Stone” takes some beating. Olwen Fouere is wonderful here. The track only lasts five minutes, but seems to encapsulate all that is special about Babel : virtuoso composition, an ear that can imagine entire (and musically consistent) universes; humor; otherworldliness; and a curious depth that seems to imply some sort of extraterrestrial otherness. The humor is carried over into “Beautiful Day” (whatever you imagine this piece as sounding like, I would bet money that you are wrong). The entire edifice ends with a death: “Mr Foley’s Last Moments”, a dark conclusion to a kaleidoscopic listening experience.

The final two discs are of the imagined radio station broadcasting from floor 25 of the Tower of Babel. The first is “Earth at Full Moon.” It opens with “The Morning Show” and an announcer giving the weather report (“Always a nice day, here in the Tower”) and moves on to far more human concerns than we have heard so far, all pinned together by Doyle’s brilliance with electronics. Singer Elena Lopez seems to imply that the vocal lines of her song “You must be in” are derived from the music of Puccini. The news report is impeccably humorous (we get traffic and hilarious ads with out-takes, too, plus a rather restrained jingle that informs us that they are broadcasting “in a language of your choice”). World music is up next, with “Surface du Monde,” a collage of musics from around the planet. Some of the music could almost come under the “easy listening” classification. The 16-minute “Trapeze in Full-Moon Nights (four acts from an imaginary circus)” is magnificently evocative. Waltzes appear, distorted in an aural mirror; think of the fairground from the popular TV series Heroes and that should give some idea. It is all great fun.

Finally, “Leisure Pursuits,” split into two “shows.” First up is “The Entertainment and Leisure Pursuits Show,” complete with adverts. This is the slow side of radio, with a twist. The implication, from the phone-in on the second show, “The Nightshow” (“We’re going to transfigure the night,” says the announcer), is that the show is piped into everyone’s home whether they want it or not (track 24), and can’t be turned off. The adverts for a sleeping pill (from “Soma Pharmaceuticals”) imply that to be the only escape. Heard on their own, the last two discs might be shrugged off as clever, but so what? Heard in the context of the preceding three discs of Babel , they take on a whole new level of meaning as part of a story, part of an impeccably imagined alternative world experience. Fascinating, and well worth the time required to properly immerse oneself in the weird and wonderful contents of Roger Doyle’s head." [Colin Clarke]