Stephen O'Malley - At The GRM Paris review


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Band: Stephen O'Malley
Album: At The GRM Paris
Release date: June 2020

01. Crepescule
02. MetalStorm

Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley exviviates two compositions performed by Romania's duovirate of pioneering spectralist composers.

Stephen O'Malley's philoprogenitive instincts for ambient and experimental classical music should register as no monumental revelation for those who are au fait with his oeuvre under the Sunn O))) nomen. We scribed a tripartite treatise enumerating the virtues of his work in Sunn O))) and its multifarious progeny to illumine the path of the uncultivated, and illumination should prove necessary as this release is not the one to satisfice the novitiate as a point of entry into these quixotic travails. Here SOMA garbs himself in his most esoteric habiliments. Even in his foregone classical compositions, videlicet Gruidés or Éternelle Idole, some semblance of an abecedarian nature lingered. This is a work that awaits pecuniary action on Bandcamp, one offering gelt to a genre of modern classical so recondite but so enrapturing, one in whose nascence my fatherland was no mere spear-carrier.

Any attempt at explication would fail to impress justly the significance of spouses Iancu Dumitrecu and Ana-Maria Avram. What achieved nativity in the 1970s as meditations on the Antaean physicality of audible media would discreetly charge ripples of influence that made epigones of every drone band citing Sunn O))) as their forerunner, as well as the hero's portion of electroacoustic music released subsequently. Dumitrecu and Avram were neither inselbergs in the field of spectralist composition, nor even its originators, but the "Romanian school" was an orgulously escutcheoned branch of this musical tree, in part due to its initial independence from the brummagem of computerization, which necessarily spawned a simon-pure rusticity. And though there be ramifications of the soi-disant Romanian school beyond this dual power, the emphatic application of drones in their hyper-spectralism made Dumitrecu and Avram apposite candidates for adaptation by one of drone music's most sedulous champions.

Recorded in late 2012 at Paris's GRM, with both Dumitrescu and Avram in attendance, this live album showcases Stephen O'Malley, attendant the six-string, evoking one composition from each of the two maestros. The lengthier leading track, Dumitrescu's "Crepuscule", builds itself around myriad bursts of distortion, delay, and reverb of variegated luminosity. "MetalStorm" is a work constructed by Avram in dedication to O'Malley (as opposed to our website, as its title would imply) and it concerns itself primarily with feedback and continuous tones. The guitar holds first chair on each, and yet the errant electronic sounds and muted susurrations of a wondering audience captured by the microphones contribute an unforeseen shade of vivacity to the recording. And for the performance itself, one keenly feels a touch of autoschediasm, an extemporaneous freedom facilitated by the inchoate nature of the works at that point in time.

Neither piece vouchsafes any lagniappe even to one already accustomed to Sunn O)))'s sound, let alone a philistine whose assessment initiates and terminates with the popular "boring, one-note refrigerator" cliché. The true musical duende of these compositions lies more within their textures and timbres, in this case especially in the manipulation of sound based on spectral analysis. Though some fast Fourier transformation may have been applied to the compositions themselves, Stephen O'Malley's sonic doom only amplifies their power, spiriting them from the digital to the analogue and back to the digital to impart to them a vitality that most spectral music can never hope to grasp.

As the latter track was dedicated to O'Malley, so does he in turn dedicate this track to the memory of Ana-Maria Avram, who passed away in 2017. These two pieces engage only the epidermis of the extensive canon and influence of Avram and Dumitrescu, but of all the musicians whose work they have influenced, I am pleased that it was Stephen O'Malley who tied these worlds together.


Written on 12.11.2020 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.

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