Tuesday, September 20, 2011


JWD/EMF, 1999; available

38 tracks, 73:56

The late Hugh Le Caine is one of the forgotten pioneers of electronic and concrete music. This release collects every known recording of his work, as well as a few recordings by other musicians using his instruments. Among these self-made wonders are a touch-sensitive organ, two types of artificial larynx (ie, a primitive vocoder), custom-built multi-track recorders, and the Electronic Sackbut synthesizer. The latter is especially noteworthy since, being created circa 1946, it is the earliest known true synthesizer. The tracks presented include musique concrete classics like "Dripsody" (based on a drop of water that is turned into a metallic symphony, and which is present in mono and stereo forms) and "Study No. 1 For Player Piano And Tape"; strange "humorous sketches" like "This Thing Called Key" and "Sounds To Forget"; electronic experiments like "Ninety-Nine Generators" and "A Noisome Pestilence"; and short demonstrations of the instruments. The highlights (such as "Dripsody" and "The Burning Deck", which both appear twice in slightly different forms) are incredible. It's worth noting that Le Caine didn't compose a whole lot of pieces; he fully intended to have more skilled musicians compose works on his instruments. Thus, there are a lot of demonstrations on here. While these are included more for historical purposes than listenability, they're still fun in small doses, and the occasional commentary by Le Caine adds a lot of charm. Taken as a whole, this collection is an essential insight into an unfairly obscure genius and comes strongly recommended to all fans of electronic music, since many roots of more recent acts can be traced back to these experiments.

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