Gigantic Dancing Human Machine


aec.cnlp21012.2 3/11/03 New
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Review Text Bang on a Can invite you to "Meet the Hocketers" on this CD compilation featuring three works by Dutch avant modern classical composer Louis Andriessen. Reissuing two Andriessen pieces from Bang on a Can's 1995 Industry CD -- "Hout" and "Hoketus" -- and adding a recording of "Workers' Union" from a 2002 WNYC live radio broadcast, Gigantic Dancing Human Machine is nicely programmed to give the listener a bit of variety within Andriessen's sometimes rigorously minimalistic world. As a case in point, the relentless buildup of "Hoketus" is followed by the gentler "Hout" ("Wood"), in which Evan Ziporyn's tenor sax lines are sequentially echoed by guitarist Mark Stewart, marimbist Steven Schick, and pianist Lisa Moore to create a mesmerizing hall-of-mirrors effect. And the musicians' touch is also comparatively light on the opening "Workers' Union," which has nowhere near the ultimately bludgeoning relentlessness of "Hoketus," despite the fact that Andriessen composed both pieces during roughly the same period in the mid-'70s. The listener can perhaps be thankful that the Bang on a Can All-Stars chose a somewhat lighter instrumental sound (featuring bass, vibraphone, piano, electric guitar, cello, and Ziporyn's squawky bass clarinet) and less aggressive approach to the stop-and-start rhythms, full-ensemble unison attack, and atonal harmonics of "Workers' Union" than the California EAR Unit applied to the same piece on 1997's Zilver CD -- after all, "Hoketus" must be contended with, so best not to exhaust the listener before the main event even begins. Indeed, the nearly 24-minute "Hoketus" dominates Gigantic Dancing Human Machine, and if you are adequately prepared to put this on your CD player, you will hear the musicians walk -- or perhaps pound on -- the line between minimalist trance and minimalist madness, a bit like a Steve Reich composition played with hammers and anvils rather than mallets and marimbas. Once "Hoketus" winds up into its full mechanistic assault, the curious result is music whose manic call-and-response repetitions and variations seem designed to induce a trance while instantaneously wrenching the listener out of said trance. The instrumentation on this piece (also skillfully performed on the Rogue's Gallery CD by British contemporary avant renegades Icebreaker, whose James Poke, Katherine Pendry, Richard Craig, and Damian leGassick are guest musicians here as well) is similarly contradictory, including not only electric bass guitars (two of them), congas (two sets of them, too), and Fender Rhodes (OK, everything is in twos, just like your ears) but also pan pipes, employed in a way that might suggest a parallel universe in which Zamfir showed up for the Bang on a Can session straight from his earlier gig with Glenn Branca. (Although Andriessen has noted that hocketing is highly developed in Peruvian and Bolivian pan pipe ensembles, so perhaps the instrumentation is in fact appropriate.) Headphones are absolutely essential to perceive this nearly 24-minute composition's hocketing effect in its full glory, with a measured windup of ping-ponging rhythms and abrupt shifts into even more intense levels of agitation at the eight- and 20-minute marks. (At 20 minutes "Hoketus" actually takes on the melodic and harmonic characteristics of more conventional music.) There is always a sense of amazement inherent in listening to artists as capable as those in Bang on a Can get through a piece like this without a slipup. And there is also a sense of accomplishment for you, dear listener, at having gotten through it yourself with a measure of sanity intact. ~ Dave Lynch

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Worker's Union, for chamber ensemble - 16:13
  2. 2. Hoketus for mixed ensemble - 24:53
  3. 3. Hout, for tenor saxophone, marimba, guitar & piano - 11:43

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