Thanos Chrysakis and the musically empathic souls that populate his esteemed Aural Terrains imprint might be considered renegades in their respective field, spread across a vast landscape of improvisers mining a virtually infinite gulf of electroacoustic sound design. Many play in this field, and with varying degrees of artistic and aesthetic success; Chrysakis at this point has built up a body of work that can quite rightly assume the same venerated mantle as forebears AMM/Keith Rowe, MEV, Evan Parker, et al. He finds common coin in electroacoustic improv's recognized syntax, but an unabashed passion and zeal for experimentation never ceases to immerse, amaze, and simultaneously filibuster any specific categorical identity.
Recorded live in Budapest in 2014, this particular quartet of players Chrysakis has assembled for Carved Water are no less impressive, their skills bent massive as they tease out the opening ideas from "Part 1"s near-forty minute sprawl. As with the finer electroacoustic exercises, sonic attributes blur, instrument characteristics are rendered indistinct, and the parts become wholly subservient to the greater whole. Christian Kobi's saxophonic discharges are nearly indistinguishable from the galvanizing effects realized by cohorts Chrysakis, Zsolt Sorés, and Christian Skjødt, but within such minutiae resides the crux of the dynamic systems at play here. Might there be a randomness to the soundscape as it develops? Or is there an essential logic providing the impetus? Paradoxically, perhaps incongruously, both — it's to the improviser's credit that the slowly gestating textures are birthed instantly from the ether yet command our attention so bracingly. There's a surety of purpose here, a dedication towards a 'goal' of sorts, to realizing an aural sculpture from but pigment into a tactile form. This is a work that convulses, breathes, and literally cries out at points in an almost retaliatory manner. Diminutive electronic tones aerate the stereofield like spent fireworks' dying embers; computerized particles splash vividly across landscapes dotted with hairpin viola strikes and the course of air interrupted by valve and spittle. Unsettling and alien, the endlessly shifting structure remains so indefinable that it attains a different luster each time it is experienced.
"Part II" can only feel like postscript after its predecessor's absolute intent. But this is hardly the case. The quartet aren't finished ripping open the heavens to circumnavigate their wealth of approaches and concepts, building upon the earlier piece in a way that doesn't render this second chapter anticlimactic. Kobi's saxophone gets quite the workout, broadly augmented by Skjødt and Sorés's palpable handstrikes across objects found and confounded. Behind it all, Chrysakis wrestles savage glee from both touchpad and circuitry, glitches scattered through a labyrinth of reflective silicon that oozes a near-tangible, preening menace. Consider this fab four interlocutors of process, singing the body electric.
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