Monday 22 August 2022

Crossing boundaries between contemporary classical, experimental electronic, ambient and electroacoustic - Matthew Whiteside's Remixes

Matthew Whiteside - The Remixes
Matthew Whiteside - The Remixes
Reviewed 22 August 2022 (★★★★)

As a lockdown project Whiteside takes six of his existing compositions and makes them source material for electro-acoustic remixes to dazzling and seductive effect

During Lockdown, with live collaboration difficult, many composers and performers collaborated via Zoom and by multi-tracking shared files. Composer Matthew Whiteside found this process unsatisfactory and for his album The Remixes he decided to collaborate with himself. He describes it as "a really interesting and fun process removing my ego and treating the recordings as simply sound sources rather than as my compositions". 

The resulting album, The Remixes, which is available on BandCamp and via streaming [Linktree], takes six of Whiteside's pieces, originally played by Australian contemporary music performers Ensemble Offspring, the Aurea Quartet and Scottish based musicians Emma Lloyd and Joanna Nicholson, and uses them as electroacoustic source material which Whiteside has expanded and remixed, and he describes the music as crossing the boundaries between contemporary classical, experimental electronic, ambient and electroacoustic.

We begin with Solo for Viola D’amore and Electronics, originally recorded by Emma Lloyd on his first album Dichroic Light [see my review]. Whiteside has amplified the original by merging in multiple transposed versions, thus creating a strongly textured sound that is almost an electronic ensemble, and it is in the subtle variations of texture that the work's interest comes.

Matthew Whiteside (Photo Julie Howden)
Rama (Remix) is based on Rama recorded during lockdown by Ensemble Offspring; Matthew was in Glasgow and they were in Sydney! The remix uses just a manipulated version of the vibraphone part to create a slightly random rhythmic pattern, and the result sounds intriguing in the way the rhythmic patterns stand out owing to the prominent feel of the new vibraphone part, even as Whiteside seems to take the new instrument under water.

Quartet No. 6 (Remix) and Quartet No. 5 (Remix) are based on his Quartet No. 6 and Quartet No. 5 which were both recorded by the Aurea Quartet on his second album Entangled [see my review]. Quartet No. 6 (Remix) has a highly mechanical feel to the sound world and I have to confess the opening, to me, evoked a vacuum cleaner though this gradually metamorphoses. We are a long way from the original meditative string sound, and the underlying variations in timbre and texture introduce a beat which is almost slow disco. Seductive and rather fascinating, it certainly draws you in.

Quartet No. 5 (Remix) also leaves the string sound behind to create something rather fierce and intense, an almost scary soundscape that has a strongly filmic element to it (and whatever is happening in the film is not entirely comfortable!)

Ulation (Remix) is based on Ulation which was performed by Emma Lloyd on Dichroic Light. This is a remarkable transformation as the remix is a slow exploration of the first 30 seconds of the original starting with a pizzicato and glissandi, so we have slow moving, sliding pitches, creating a sort of hypnotically meditative sound world, constant yet constantly shifting.

Piece One (Remix) is based on the first of his three pieces for bass clarinet and electronics written for and recorded by Joanna Nicholson. The remix electronically extends and harmonises the melodic line of the bass clarinet and combines it with a field recording of Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow. So we begin with birds and other outside sounds with the electronically treated bass clarinet gradually sliding in. Again, the slightly eerie sound-world has a filmic quality, as if we are watching something rather spooky approaching a very ordinary outside scene. My apologies for perhaps being over literal, but that is how I hear this music.

Rather intriguingly, Whiteside has created a Spotify playlist that places the remixes alongside the originals, so you can really compare and contrast.

It is remarkable what Whiteside has achieved here, remaking and reworking his original music in ways that were probably never considered when first writing it. The results have a wonderfully natural ambient feel to them, as if they were always intended this way so that the album has two-fold interest, listening to see what he has done to the original and listening to the new music for its own sake. Do try it, I do not think you will be disappointed.

Matthew Whiteside (born 1988) - The Remixes
    Solo for Viola D’amore and Electronics
    Rama (Remix)
    Quartet No. 6 (Remix)
    Quartet No. 5 (Remix)
    Ulation (Remix)
    Piece One (Remix)
Based on original recordings made by Emma Lloyd, Rama, Aurea Quartet, Joanna Nicholson
Available via streaming [Linktree] and BandCamp

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