Various Artists - Spire: Organ Works Past Present & Future
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Various Artists
Spire: Organ Works Past Present & Future

Touch Records is one of those labels that I seem to always go back to and enjoy. Whether it's a release by Biosphere or Philip Jeck or a newer disc by Fennesz or some other ambient works, I pretty much know that what I'll get is quality. Having said the above, it pains me a bit to say that I'm really disappointed in this double-disc compilation entitled Spire: Organ Works Past Present & Future. Featuring work composed by tons of different artists on their label, as well as other sound sculptors, it seems like it should have been a promising project. After all, I'm a fan of organs whether it be a woozy Hammond present on an electronic keyboard or a magnificent pipe organ that bellows and shakes your innards (I was once privy to an outstanding concert at the DomKirche in Köln Germany and it knocked my socks off).

Disc 1 of the set features 12 tracks and runs about 50 minutes and opens with the warbling track of "Royal Organ" by Leif Elggren. The track basically consists of a short loop of organ replayed with very little variation for almost 3 minutes. Philip Jeck contributes just under 2 minutes of feedback-drenched something (possibly an organ) with "Stops," and it feels like Charlemagne Palestine with all the levels in the red (but fortunately doesn't last as long). Although there's an interesting concept behind it (different lengths of pipes were fitted with mics to field record), the 10-minute "Layered" by Toshiya Tsunoda simply goes on for way too long and with very little variation.

In fact, much of the factor in my limited enjoyment of the release seems to be a decision of conceptual ideas over regard for listenable sonics. Over the course of 17 tracks and almost 2 hours of material there is very little melody. Rather, the set seems to be more about texture, and while it's an interesting angle to come at things (especially given the source material), it unfortunately doesn't make for a very interesting listen much of the time.

That said, it is possible to be both musical and textural at the same time and the set works best when the two overlap the most. Although I could have lived with a little less filtration, the Scott Minor/Fennesz collaboration of "Dwan" is quite good (especially during the second half) while Jakob Kirkegaard's "Epiludio Patetico" is a shimmering thing of beauty and one of the only tracks on the release that really let the unique unfettered timbrel qualities of the organ shine through. Elsewhere, Oren Ambarchi and Tom Recchion let loose with the fluttering "Remake" while Biosphere contributes the icy "Visible Invisible." As mentioned above, though, the highpoints barely outweight the less-interesting, and the collection suffers in the end. If you're a Touch completist, you'll probably want to hear this, but otherwise there's plenty else on the label that would provide you with a better listening experience.

rating: 5.510
Aaron Coleman 2004-08-26 00:00:00