Thursday, March 10, 2011

SAMPLE & HOLD : phantom orchard

Phantom Orchard, the duo comprised of Zeena Parkins and Ikue Mori, released one album simply called Phantom Orchard (Mego 071, 2004). What makes this album special is that Zeena Parkins not only plays her usual acoustic and electric harps but also produces a wonderful array of noises using some vintage electronic instruments from the Audities Foundation Collection: a Gleeman Pentaphonic Clear, a Moog Modular and a Buchla 200 Series electronic music instrument(Don Buchla rejects the word synth in favor of this more appropriate terminology). Ikue Mori is listed as playing "electronics," though certainly she is using her laptop.

The duo presents the listener with compelling contrasts; Parkins' harp negotiates a lively thriving web of sometimes savage noises producing sounds that are both lulling and cacophonous, composed and aleatoric. There is no steady rhythm, Ikue Mori's percussionist role is cast aside in favor of processor seemingly. I am reminded of Morton Subotnick's works in that the Buchla 200 seems to have a predominant role in the proceedings. The cover of the cd, a trilobite fossil in plain site along with golden vegetation suggests that these vintage instruments, though the product of a bygone age, still have much to say. Phantom Orchard make an urgent case in favor of this point of view

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