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Michael Fahres - The Tubes

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Artist: Michael Fahres

Album: The Tubes

Label: Cold Blue

Review date: Mar. 15, 2007

The three pieces by composer Michael Fahres collected here are each constructed from sounds – and sound environments – unique to specific places. Such specificity of sonic geography, however, seems to lead both composer and listener on a far-reaching journey, from precise locus to something more imaginative and adventurous.

Two shorter pieces bookend the 30 minute-long title piece. Sevan features Armenian singer Parik Nazarian performing within the deep reverberant spaces of large, rusted and abandoned irrigation tubes designed to help clean and restore Armenia's ecologically besieged Lake Sevan. The hollow echoes, and Fahre's multi-tracking and processing, produce a cloud-like choir of saturated hues that seems rooted in the Armenian liturgical vocal tradition and blends mysteriously with the nearby sounds of industrial stone-cutting. In Coimbra 4, Mundi Theater, the most recent piece here, Fahres collages source tapes from a festival that took place within the ancient stone-walled Portuguese city of Coimbra, creating what he describes as "a non- location- specific sound map." Again, the human voice, both choral and solo, is of central concern; and again, the way sound – voices, horns, percussion, pure noise – behaves to saturate enclosed-yet-large -and reverberant space is crucial both to the composer's expression and the way he manipulates his raw material.

Fahres has been at work on this disc's central piece, The Tubes, since 1994, and it is a powerful work indeed. The generative sounds are of ocean water roaring through volcanic sea-caves in the Canary Islands. Hissing and foaming, the water-sounds are arranged to form rhythmic cycles of awe-inspiring white noise. The sense of in-take and out-flow suggests breath, and Fahres accentuates this with the addition of Mark Atkins's pulsing didgeridoo and Jon Hassell's slower-breathing, overtone-rich trumpet.

Faced with the larger scale of The Tubes, one can perhaps best appreciate Fahres's depth as a composer: He works with motifs and patterns in ways that indicate a profound grasp of formal structure and a wonderfully subtle mastery of thematic development. (In this his approach harkens back quite clearly to that of the "classical" electronic composer Vladimir Ussachevsky.) One can find pure sensory evocation of sonic spaces within Fahres’ music and be quite satisfied. Available to deeper apprehension however, and at least equally compelling, is the composer’s command of shape and proportion in the arranging of sound and its environment into art.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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