The introductory movement of Carl Craig and Moritz Von Oswalds’s ‘recomposition’ of Mussorgsky and Ravel begins with static, single drops of synth picking out a simple non-riff. A melody fragment hanging in an ambient wash of atmospheric colour as the ticking beat grows beneath, a tiny insect march subverted by horns. Since what I’m listening to is not the final mix, I’ll temper my opinions but as that insect march gets a little more military in the second movement, the clarinet mutating into Terry Riley shapes, its clear that this is seriously ‘re-composed’ and not, as might have been feared, some horrible forced marriage ala Classics on ’45.
The thing of it is that the raw material here, Mussorsgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Ravel’s Boléro , are themselves very much pop classics, over-recorded, over-familiar, nipped and tucked for T.V soundtracks and, in the case of the Mussorgsky, thoroughly and terminally fucked over by E.L.P. in the seventies.
The subtle repetitions and convolutions of ReComposed come as a pleasant surprise. Hypnotic scribblings on sanctified ‘masterpieces’ of the classical cannon themselves grown debased and banal and almost beyond rehabilitation. Each movement is signalled by the introduction or emphasis on one new element as the beat gets tighter. Fat analogue squiggles reverbing across motoric neon patter as trumpets jubilaeum to each other in an ever tightening locked off groove.
“Boléro epitomises Ravel’s preoccupation with restyling and reinventing dance movements,” say the Wikipedidians, which might also stand for the for the discreet techno genius of Carl Craig.
It is twenty eight minutes in before the beat takes hold. By the end of the 3rd Mussorgsky and Ravel are nowhere to be heard, the machines kidnapping the source material, overwriting it with their cold alien groove. Bubbling synth and an ambience briefly reminiscent of Betke’s Pole recordings dissolve into an ever more minimal twitschscape.
Bringing it all back down again, the interlude gives way to the sounds that only a classical orchestra can make. Remade the melody has a musicbox insistency which floats over the top before competing with a very Hollywood sounding string section (in fact the recording sampled here was the Berlin Philharmonic under Karajan).
All the lush exoticism of Romantic Classical Music, its magisterial, bloated gestures are pickled like some weird antique cliché in movements four and five. An oboe is reduced to repeating a single note, the whole thing turned inside out as cascades of synths engage in a Latino space disco battle and eventually settle down to bubble away before the brushed snares of the final movement arrive with an ominously tolling bell, noir swing horns and a radar sweep of strings signalling a Bond villain in his lair. What any of this has to do with Mussorgsky and Ravel at this point is anybody’s guess but I for one was locked into its Ballardian groove.
Watch out for ReComposed live at Berghain in October as part of the Yellow Lounge/Popkomm 2008 event
2. Movement 1
3. Movement 2
4. Movement 3
5. Movement 4
7. Movement 5
8. Movement 6