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23 February 2016

GOL, Ana-Maria Avram, Iancu Dumitrescu And Members Of Ansamblul Hyperion - 'Musique Directe' (Planam)

GOL are a French-based quartet of electro-acoustic improvisers who take their soundmap from Musica Elettronica Viva and others which have followed in their wake. It's a spacious sound, and occasionally gets quite extreme in terms of echo/effects/processing, but there's a group feel throughout that doesn't really change when the guests join in. The opening cut is just GOL alone, and while their name suggests football fandom, this is more like water skiïng, cutting against waves of roomspace with tensely attenuated electronics. Avram and Dumitrescu join for the second track and it's a much murkier affair, with Dumitrescu playing a prepared piano frame which (I assume) fills up all the middle space. There's still a lot of negotiating even when there's nervous energy, like a yapping dog knowing when to pull back and wait for a snack. Occasionally some really what-the-fuck sounds drift in, but then they don't overstay their welcome; it's a trick that GOL plays a few time throughout the record but never to the point of gimmickyness. The last cut on side 1 features Dumitrescu on the cello but this doesn't sound like Yo-Yo Ma or even like a recognisable cello in any form. Actually, there's very few points of recognisable instruments across the whole album, at least in a conventional sense. Sometimes a processed sound has a texture that makes it identifiable as a plucked acoustic string or percussive tap, but it's transformed into a sideways ghost here. Yet this processing is not the point - it's not an overly wet record, just one that has a solid mood. Side two starts with a Dumitrescu composition built around a tape piece from 1985, played by Avram, and accentuated by the group's clatter and sturm. It rather seamlessly blends into the last piece, which is the only one to feature "members of Ansamblul Hyperion", in this case two people both named Teodorescu. It's not like the sound is significantly more full when there are seven people playing on a track instead of four, but this one gets into the higher register a bit more and ends around some ringing space tones that have a subtle pulse beneath them. At first I thought the title of this album was somewhat of a joke, but actually there is something 'direct' here, in the direct cinema sense, as in we're witnessing a group collaboration that is natural and unprocessed. The sounds, sure, have their own electronic processing at times, but the cohesive group dynamic is presented without visible editing or subterfuge. The liner notes contain a graphical score for a piece which is not on this album, maybe a Dadaist joke or just something pretty they wanted to include anyway. It's hard to tell the tone of this - it's not an overly joyous sound, nor is it too-serious or academic. And the basic, plain graphic artwork places this in a zone of total neutrality, allowing one to add their own interpretation at will. Direct music, indeed.

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