Various Artists Ohm: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music: 1948-1980

Michael Heumann The Library Discography Haunted Ink Haunted Ink Review Archive The Inkbottle

Ellipsis Arts
Released: April 2000

If you're reading this, you are probably a fan of, or are interested in, electronic music. For most of us, "electronic music" is a term that dates back, oh, to Kraftwerk or Depeche Mode. We usually don't think about avant-garde electronic music, in part because it is aligned more closely with the world of academia and classical music. This side of electronic music should be better known--especially for fans of IDM, the one genre that bridges the gap between these two musical realms. And if you are an IDM fan, you need to get this three CD collection, which comprises some of the greatest names in "serious" electronic music, including John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, La Monte Young, Edgard Varese, Brian Eno, and about 30 others. The title dates the music as beginning in 1948, but there is a lot of music from the 20s and 30s here, as well (it was just recorded later). What makes these artists so important, and so relevant, to modern electronic music is incredibly simple: they basically created recording techniques that are today standards--things like sampling, remixing, multi-track recording, synthesizers, fragmented sounds or "cut-ups," and the notion of the musical collage. Listening to all this music is a real eye-opener for anyone who thought IDM began and ended with Autechre. Someone like Edgard Varese, who started making music in 1905 and was making "electronic music" in the 1920s and 30s, created works like the included "Poem Electronique" that are every bit as fragmented and abstract as the weirdest Warp track. Although some tracks drag in places (Milton Babbitt's "Philomel," for example), the majority are very fun and immensely engaging. Really, the only thing that separates this music from IDM is a beat--and even in IDM, that beat is often lacking. So get this disk not only for the musical education it provides, but also for the sheer joy of listening to great artists invent the very things that electronic music celebrates today.

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