Carl Stone - Woo Lae Oak
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Carl Stone
Woo Lae Oak

Long before the silver sheen of Apple Powerbooks became as staple of electronic music artists, composer Carl Stone had made computers a part of his live setting. It was clear back in 1986 (when they were much more cumbersome) in fact, when he first introduced them into his performances, and before that he was already known for his work with sampling and tape manipulation, having studied with Morton Subotnick and James Tenney at the California Institute of the Arts. Over the past nearly thirty years, he's been composing work, both for the recorded format (on labels such as New Albion, New Tone, and others) and for theatre.

Woo Lae Oak is a single, fifty-four minute tape piece that was originally released on Wizard Records back in 1983. The newest in a line of great reissues on the small Unseen Worlds label (which fortunately reintroduced Lubomyr Melnyk and "Blue" Gene Tyranny to the world), this is probably the most austere and minimal thing that the small label has put out to date. Consisting of small samples of strings and wind, Woo Lae Oak is an exercise in repetition and subtle shifts, with elements breaking apart slowly and falling away before similar sounds are introduced to the mix only to repeat the process.

Instead of grandiose swoops of strings and deep rushes of woodwinds, this release is an extreme example of minimalism. Short pieces of rubbed, tremolo strings quiver uneasily, while droning wind (which sounds sort of like pan flutes or even the whistling across the top of a pop bottle) noises play out over one another. With no filtering, instead only tape techniques like odd synching, layering, and changes of speed are employed. It's one of those pieces of music that seems to stretch time, and depending on your mood when listening to it, that will either be a good thing or a horrible one. At loud volumes, the incessant tremolo and droning wind noises are almost abrasive (and will likely be irritating to most listeners, especially given the duration), but at a softer volume they melt nicely into the surrounding environment and reveal some nice textural and sonic undulations. This is the sort of release that's obviously not for everyone, but if you enjoy the slab-style drone of Phil Niblock (or other similar artists) or even musique concrete, Woo Lae Oak might just make your eardrums flutter.

rating: 6.2510
Aaron Coleman 2008-03-06 19:33:00