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Alan Courtis - Antiguos Dólmenes del Paleolítico

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Artist: Alan Courtis

Album: Antiguos Dólmenes del Paleolítico

Label: Sedimental

Review date: Jul. 10, 2006

There are mounds of music out there with Argentinean composer/improviser/multi-instrumentalist Alan Courtis’s name on it, so it’s kind of startling to learn that this is his first solo CD. Perhaps in an effort to get back to basics, the former member of Reynols has cut way, way back here; he uses no instruments at all, just no-input mixing desk feedback. Of course, he’s not the first to do so; Toshimaru Nakamura has done yeoman’s work putting this non-instrument on the map, and Dusted’s own Eric Weddle has used it with the Unstable Ensemble.

But Courtis finds his own voice here. The album, whose title is helpfully translated inside the swanky gatefold sleeve as “Ancient Paleolithic Dolmens,” is inspired by the set of ancient stone formations depicted on the cover, and perhaps also their surroundings; cultivated fields, a road, and irrigation equipment lay in the background, clearly situating the rocks in a moment other than the one in which they were first assembled.

The record comprises four pieces, each roughly 12 minutes long. The action in “Part I” and “Part IIII” is quite minimal; volume and pitch shift, swell and subside, pure electronic timbres elongate and stutter in near proximity. Fortunately, Courtis understands that when your music doesn’t do a lot, what it does had better be engaging. This stuff fits the bill; the dominant tones seem to glow and flicker like neon lights, and when something new quietly insinuates itself, the effect is startling and mysterious.

“Part II” starts out in similar territory, but it becomes more active a couple minutes in when the tones start to pass more quickly in and out of the mix. The effect is like watching car lights at night on Midwestern rural roads, with the quicker cars on the freeway overtaking the slower ones on the service drive. “Part III” is completely different, being composed of brief, lilting, birdlike sounds; if someone threw open the windows to the local conservatory and let the local avian inside, this is what you might hear if you closed your eyes.

“Antiguos Dólmenes del Paleolítico” won’t push the same issue buttons that Reynols’s releases often did, but it makes a persuasive case for Courtis as a worthy contributor to the worldwide electronic discourse. Out of the next batch of stuff you purchase from your preferred mail-order emporium, this one will be in your play pile rather than that “to-be-filed” heap a few months down the road.

By Bill Meyer

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