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Ana Maria Avram / Iancu Dumitrescu - Laboratory

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Artist: Ana Maria Avram / Iancu Dumitrescu

Album: Laboratory

Label: Edition Modern

Review date: Mar. 8, 2007

I could write myself into silence trying to describe the music of Rumanian composers Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana Maria Avram. They’re often associated with the spectral school of composition, and while there is truth to the assertion, it does not begin to describe the perplexing, sensual and downright thrilling soundscapes on this, the duo’s 21st disc on their own label. While spectrality can imply dogmatic adherence to overtone exploration, for example, this music is ceaselessly non-compromising in its authoritative non-conformity, rendering terms such as improvisation and solo all but irrelevant.

The long rolling drone that opens Dumitrescu’s “La Chute Dens le Temp,” is at once recognizable and increasingly alien as its pitch decreases. It might be tympani, but the sonic perspective is skewed just enough to create slow uncertainty. As with so much of Dumitrescu’s work, spatial suggestion makes each event appear huge, even portentous, while maintaining some small semblance of familiarity. Later in the two-part piece, what sounds like a French horn’s sliding honk is suddenly phased, just enough to set it apart from its already precarious surroundings. One of the most astonishing moments occurs in the second part, where monolithic tam-tam blasts simply dwarf everything in their wake, turning the brilliant contributions of Tim Hodgkinson and Vinny Golia into impetuous rodent rhetoric.

Percussionist and pianist Ana Maria Avram’s compositions compliment Dumitrescu’s in ways that are at once apparent and difficult to articulate. It is as if her compositional voice picks up where his left off, or melds with his to create a more multivalent whole — or vice versa. Her portion of this set is even more superficially fragmentary than Dumitrescu’s, due in large part to some stunning stereophonic trickery. Are these ensembles prerecorded, perhaps juxtaposed with live musicians and manipulated in time in a kind of grandiose uhr-improv? Underneath all that “changing same” vitality, however, I can hear more of the long-held tones, heavy with higher frequencies, stereotypically associated with spectral composition, further complicating matters of classification. No matter, as Hodgkinson returns for some of his customarily visceral bass clarinet articulations in “Increat I,” and “Increat II” finds Chris Cutler adding a layer of electrified percussion to the generally hard-edged textures.

I have chosen isolated moments to examine here; the world created by these two innovators is certainly not limited to such microscopic manifestations of cause and effect, even though much of the material presented here functions that way. While this disc would make a fine introduction, it doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story, and there are copious amounts of astounding material to explore in each volume. Any devotee of the avant-garde will find rewards a-plenty in the work of these two as-yet underappreciated composers.

By Marc Medwin

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