Alter Ego + Pan Sonic + Matmos: an Avant-Garde Electronic maelström
Founded in 2003 by Bruno Stucchi and Fabio Carboni, for near 20 years, the Milan based imprint, Die Schachtel, has traversed the vanguard experimental sound practice, issuing dozens of contemporary and historical releases that have helped sculpt the context as we encounter it today. Following a stream of outstanding releases by contemporary musicians (Alessandra Novaga, Stefano Pilia, Sandro Mussida, Giovanni Di Domenico) the imprint returns with a killer pair of LPs that dive into the archives of the Italian experimental ensemble Alter Ego. Microwaves, recorded during 2004 in collaboration with Pan Sonic (Mika Vainio and Ilpo Vaisanen) comprises a never before released body of compositions, while Pranam - A(Round) Giacinto Scelsi captures the ensemble at work with Matmos (Martin Schmidt and Drew Daniel) in 2005, interpreting the works of the legendary Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi. Each, in entirely distinct ways, rests at the outer reaches of avant-garde and electronic music, unfurling blistering structures, tones, and textures - plowing forward with frenetic energy - that remain radical and ahead of their time, more than 15 years after they were first laid to tape.
Alter Ego, Pan Sonic - Microwaves - LP
A modular chamber ensemble with a pointedly anti-academic approach to music - actively intervening with the disposition toward formality within contemporary chamber music - Alter Ego, over the course of their 20 year run of activity between 1990 and 2010, collaborating widely with artists spanning a vast range of practices and disciplines, including Robin Rimbaud, Philip Jeck, Gavin Bryars, Andrew Hooker, William Basinski, David Moss, Alvin Curran, Terry Riley, and numerous others, often pairing themselves with artists working well beyond their own context as a means to develop highly original interpretations of a specific composer’s work. Microwaves is one such instance of the remarkably singular practice, encountering the group in collaboration with Pan Sonic, the Finnish duo of Mika Vainio and Ilpo Vaisanen, pioneers of a remarkably distinct form of rhythmic, experimental electronic music, who have long been regarded as one of the most visionary and irreverent projects working in the field during the '90s and 2000s.
The Microwaves project was initially conceived in 2004 between Alter Ego, Pan Sonic, and composer Fausto Romitelli, focused around realising the later’s work, but was sidelined by his untimely passing the following year. As a result, the endeavour evolved into a remembrance in sound, featuring works by some of Romitelli’s closest friends, the composers Atli Ingólfsson, Giovanni Verrando, Yan Maresz, and Riccardo Nova. Each of Microwaves’ four compositions - Ingólfsson’s Snap; Verrando’s Harmonic Domains #3; Maresz’s Link; and Nova’s Thirteen13x8@Terror Generating Deity - draw upon a pallet of samples and fragments drawn by each composer from existing works by Pan Sonic. Upon completion, these compositions then entered into a collaborative process between Pan Sonic and Alter Ego, and were performed collectively by both groups during an extensive tour that year.
Distinct and free-standing, while operating as a seamless whole, the compositions encountered across the album’s two sides - built from the sounds of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, electronics, and further treatments - present an engrossing intersection between electronic and acoustic sound that diverges from most standing conceptions of electroacoustic music. Each composer's carefully rendered structures rise and fall within the startling, conversant interplay between the two groups, finding perfect balance - between the frenetic and restrained - in what can only be regarded as one of the most striking and singularly unique expressions of contemporary chamber music realized during the 2000s. Vast in scope, visionary in concept and artistry, and sonically engrossing, these never before heard recordings from the archives of Alter Ego are issued by Die Schachtel on black vinyl in a very limited edition of 350 copies, and are not to be missed.
Alter Ego, Matmos - Pranam, A(Round Giacinto Scelsi) - LP
The second of Die Schachtel’s dive into the archives of Alter Ego, Pranam - A(Round) Giacinto Scelsi, encounters the ensemble locked in close collaboration with Matmos - the American duo of Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt - acclaimed for a body of visionary albums at the vanguard of electronic process and sampling - working to realize a stunning series of interpretations of works by the legendary Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi.
Realized in conjunction with The Fondazione Isabella Scelsi, which holds Giacinto Scelsi’s archives, and performed at the Festival Roma Europa and the Festival Aeterforum during May of 2005, the album’s four works - Estratti dal Quartetto per archi n. 3 (1963), Ko-Lho (1966), Riti: I Funerali di Carlo Magno A.D. 814 (1976), Aitsi (1974) - shift the boundaries of 20th Century chamber music toward markedly new and contemporary terms, incorporating everything, from the sounds of the Revox tape machine that Scelsi used to record his own improvisations and processed electronics, to the plastic trumpets used by fans during football matches.
From intertwining, shifting lone-tones that render startling resonances and dissonances, to passages guided by a vast pallet of electronics and flurries of acoustic sounds, joined as a single ensemble, across the two sides of Pranam, Alter Ego and Matmos infuse these four works by Scelsi with humor and playfulness, while retaining all the urgency and rigour with which they were initially composed. Delicate and meditative, while tightly wound and brooding, Pranam brings the works of Giacinto Scelsi to life in ways that almost no group ever has. Riveting and immersive from start to finish, these never before heard recordings from the archives of Alter Ego are issued by Die Schachtel on black vinyl in a very limited edition of 350 copies. They’re just about as glorious, radical, and thrilling as contemporary chamber music comes.