Populista, the brainchild of Libera and operating under the B˘łt umbrella for several years now, has specialized in concocting combinations that are, to put it mildly, unusual and, as often as not, pretty great, from Schumann's "Dichterliebe" filtered through a Kurt Weillian lens to a cover version (cover version!) of Robert Ashley's eminently uncoverable "Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon". And here they've gone and succeeded yet again.
Van Alebeek (who has previously made recordings of Luc Ferrari recordings being replayed in the latter's home) and Libera fashion a realization of Alvin Lucier's "Chambers", a fairly well-known work whose score asks the performers to "collect or make large and small resonant environments" (shells, pine cones, cars and theatres are some proffered ideas) and to "find a way to make them sound" (blowing, caressing, snoring, lowering, etc.). A rather open set of options, to be sure, though most often approached "conservatively", that is with small, sonorous vessels of one sort or another. Libera had another idea, taking textual excerpts from Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities" and attempting to make them sound via compositional ideas formulated by van Alebeek.
While it's fair to say that, without prior information, one would never suspect the presence of Lucier's composition here, the results are nonetheless fascinating and absorbing. The nine tracks are essentially embedded in grainy sound-worlds, their sources ranging from field recordings to electronic dark-ambient hums to radio captures ("Nothing Compares to You" surfaces briefly) and more. Laced amongst these fields, sometimes dense, sometimes airy, we hear voices calmly reading extracts from Calvino, male and female (the latter by Barbara Eramo), unaltered and manipulated, threading through the aural litter, disappearing, re-emerging. The sounds are dystopian and engrossing, reeling from one "location" to another, never comfortable, offering little in the way of sonic relief, the voices seeming increasingly disembodied, the ambience tilting toward the insectile and fly-ridden.
A fine conception in and of itself and also a sterling example of how far you can take an open score like that of Lucier if you use a little imagination. Excellent work.
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