Barry Schrader Lost Analog (2022)
Updated: Dec 3, 2022
“For an audience fond of the improvement of an EM from the early 70's to the mid 80's”
1 Death of the Red Planet Suite 10:07
2 Bestiary - Introduction & Assemblage 6:58
3 Bestiary - Sea Serpents 6:04
4 Bestiary - The Unicorn 5:41
5 Bestiary - Basilisks 7:35
6 Bestiary - Return & Exit 5:32
7 Classical Studies - Canon 1:54
8 Classical Studies - Chorale 2:53
9 Classical Studies - Perpetuum Mobile 1:21
10 Moon-Whales Suite - The Moon-Oak 5:31
11 Moon-Whales Suite - The Moon-Bull 7:23
12 Moon-Whales Suite - Moon-Wings 5:01
(CD/DDL 66:05) (V.F.)
(Experimental classical EM)
The recent outburst of music composed and created from modular synths has given us a host of independent artists who have found their niche at DiN, Behind the Sky Music and Buh Records. Some artists even reintroduced the Bucha 200 into their music instrument arsenal, giving back to electronic music (EM) that avant-garde touch that was so present in the 70's. It was just recently that I discovered the Venezuelan artist Oksana Linde, a female pioneer in modular synth system, and her album Aquatic and other Worlds (1983-1989). Which brings me to Barry Schrader. This American artist, born in 1945 in Pennsylvania, is a true pioneer of electro-acoustic music. He started composing music as early as 1969. He later founded and was the first president of SEAMUS, the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States. His works, mostly music for film, video, dance, and/or multimedia computer projections, and his performances have received worldwide acclaim and rave reviews from prestigious magazines, including Gramophone, which describes him as an accessible EM composer with a distinctive style. Some even compare his music to Jean-Claude Eloy, Pierre Henry and Karlheinz Stockhausen. By reading these names, you can imagine that we are in the realm of avant-garde, experimental and even abstract music. In spite of all this praise and international recognition, Barry Schrader has made very few albums and remains virtually unknown in the circles of a more accessible EM. LOST ANALOG is his 8th commercially released album and follows his 1986 debut Lost Atlantis. Originally created in quadraphonic mode, the music on this album was composed between 1972 and 1983 using the Buchla 200 analog modular synthesizer. And for the critic John Rockwell, from the New York Times, the music on Death of the Red Planet has even outsynthesized that of Tangerine Dream in its hypnotic electronic coloration (sic!). What about it?
And the album, available on manufactured CD as well as on DDL, starts with Death of the Red Planet Suite, a musical condensed of the music that accompanied the movie Death of the Red Planet. This film, about 20 minutes long, was the first to be created from images made with lasers and was presented in several American theaters at the same time as the film Yessongs by the British quintet Yes. I remember very well that condescending look of the EM purists of the early 70's when they tried to convince me that this art was the new cultural revolution. That's how I perceive John Rockwell's comment, because TD had a much broader cinemascopic vision while being quite musical. This is not the case of this title created in order to literally immerse us in the meaning of its title. A long humming modifies its organic texture to develop a static membrane which scrolls by jolts. These tremors metamorphose their sound ranges, taking the listener into a universe of noisy and spatial music where the breezes and sound effects become more musical. It is important here to underline the capacity of the author who succeeds in putting in sounds, and in music, the range of his title. Bestiary, composed between 72 and 74, is a musical act composed of 5 parts that is inspired by those gladiators who fought ferocious and mythical beasts. Bestiary - Introduction & Assemblage highlights flickering waves whose incongruous tones are jostled by small sound explosions. There is a taste of screaming metal in these synth layers where the search for new tones and their transformations were the anchor of this creation. For the time, I must admit that the sound and their oblong dissonant effects had an avant-garde color. The movement of Bestiary - Sea Serpents is more in line with the title with long lines that move like these aquatic invertebrates. The foam of the waves they make is quite realistic. Bestiary - The Unicorn is rather quiet, almost meditative, whereas Bestiary - Basilisks, after its intro always under the sign of meditation, makes hear the first movements of LOST ANALOG real rhythm. But here, we are talking about electronic rhythm like those of Pierre Henry in Messe pour le temps présent, an excellent work with a rather commercial scope for the time; around 67-68. Bestiary - Return & Exit concludes the almost 32 minutes of this musical epic with an ascending rhythm structure that goes up and down, in a pattern quite similar to Berlin School, within an ambience of electronic noises. If I had to advise you which way to start the taming of this LOST ANALOG, I would go with the Bestiary saga.
Classical Studies - Canon, Classical Studies - Chorale and Classical Studies - Perpetuum Mobile are short tracks of abstract music that represent these ancient forms of classical music. Classical Studies - Perpetuum Mobile is quite striking with its rather brisk flow in a noise music approach. Moon-Whales Suite presents 3 segments of a much longer work entitled Moon-Whales and Other Moon Songs that Barry Schrader composed between 82 and 83. We are in the best of LOST ANALOG with a good adagio movement that begins Moon-Whales Suite - The Moon-Oak. Here, the part that segments the 5 minutes is a stage of musique concrète (noise on a classical texture) before the music reverts to a texture of music created for the abyss. Moon-Whales Suite - The Moon-Bull is more musical with a cosmic music texture that is composed like if the American synthesist were sitting on an ice floe in the Cosmos. I like the moon-like softness of the atmospheres. With a little, and very little, imagination, we fly on the sonic wings of Moon-Whales Suite - Moon-Wings. The roll-out of the wings is very realistic, with vivid metallic jerks, and the music makes us drift realistically between each of these flights. Flights that become more abrupt as the title reaches its finale.
Let's be frank and realistic, LOST ANALOG is an album that will appeal to an audience fond of the improvement of an EM from the early 70's to the mid 80's. Don't look for steady rhythm structures or melodies in this opus which certainly shows a level of creativity for its time. And if we compare this work to what is done today, we notice that our contemporary artists who work with this famous Bucha 200 are as ahead of their time as their valorous pioneers and predecessors. The only difference is that today, these artists attach sustained rhythms and melodies to their experiments. A huge difference...
Sylvain Lupari (December 1st, 2022) ***½**
Available at Barry Schrader Bandcamp
(NB: Text in blue are links you can click on)