Sound Pieces is a collection of Oliveros' compositions which are played by Apartment House. These compositions vary in both length and age: one of them lasts over 40 minutes and another is almost 50 years old. What is more, these compositions vary in form: the vast majority are textual scores whilst one of them is instructed with regards to pitch and interpretation. And, yet, despite this variance between the various compositions, Apartment House manages to create a consistent mood throughout the album.
'Quintessential' kicks things off. Sombre woodwind is underpinned by dramatic industrial thuds and metallic scratching sounds, as if some sort of steam-punk beast is trying to escape from its cage. Every now and again, thick, luscious cello chords echo throughout the mix and slowly resolve to silence. Then, sounds that creak with age intertwine with gentle piano chords. But, as before, these moments of melody fade to become just another memory.
Noises which mirror those of a fugue state mark the beginning of 'Sound Piece.' Shrill woodwinds endeavour to pierce this haze to provide fleeting moments of clarity. After some time, hurried percussion causes sounds to shriek for fear of their impending demise. Whistling and howling winds blow throughout the mix, uprooting all the instrumentation in accordance with its rapidly changeable whim.
In 'Horse sings from cloud,' noises combine to form this grand ambient swell which oozes unerringly through the mix, consuming all that is in its path. This swell grows and metastasizes, becoming more gruesome, more unrecognisable, with each passing sequence. The tension this creates is the kind that makes you double check your shadow.
The final track, 'Tree / Peace,' is a monster. Unlike the other tracks, this one contains instructions to Apartment House regarding pitch and interpretation. It is perhaps due to its more guided nature that this track progresses with clearly demarcated sequences. At some points, things almost sound hopeful. Piano chords take on the form of a lighthouse, providing way points for the instrumentation way offshore. And, buoyed by this prospect of safety, the instrumentation grows in confidence, becoming more lively and animated. At other points, though, things are palpably sombre. Instruments take turns to voice their respective woes and worries into the void to hear nothing but silence in return. Instruments scuttle away and bemoan their plight, clinging on to the hope that next time there will be that long awaited response.
The consistent mood throughout Sound Pieces means that the album acts as a musical stream of consciousness, where each track seamlessly continues from the last. But, notwithstanding this overarching consistency, each track still contains its own unique musical moments. This paradox that lives within Sound Pieces is a perfect testament to both Apartment House and Oliveros. Nothing else is quite like it.
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