Carl Stone

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Woo Lae Oak (1981), 6/10
Four Pieces (1989), 6/10
Mom's (1992), 6/10
Over-Ring-Under (1992), 5/10
Kamiya Bar (1995), 5/10
Em:t 1196 (1996), 5.5/10
Exusiai (1999), 5/10
Nak Won (2002), 5/10
Resonator (2002), 5/10
Al-Noor (2007), 7/10
Baroo (2019), 6.5/10
Himalaya (2019), 7.5/10
Stolen Car (2020), 7/10

Los Angeles-born and San Francisco-based electro-acoustic and computer composer Carl Stone (1953), a student of Morton Subotnick and James Tenney, went through several stages in his musical career, marked by a fascination with both Western and Far Eastern classical music. Sukothai (1977) spearheaded what would become his leitmotiv: a tape manipulation of a Henry Purcell rondo which slowly transforms the original into a disorienting maze of mirrors (hundreds of out-of-synch variations playing against each other).

His first album was devoted to the 54-minute concrete symphony Woo Lae Oak (1981 - Wizard, 1983), that manipulates the tremolo of a rubbed string and the tone of a blown bottle. A feverish minimalist pulsation provides the foundation for sharp drones that turn into morph into voice-like vibrations and then into flute-like drones

Three other compositions of this period are notable: the 29-minute Kuk Il Kwan (1981), a terrifying concerto for drones and found sounds; the 23-minute Mae Yao (1984), that destroys a gamelan piece until only fluttering drones are left and then in the last minute an angelic female voice intones a cosmic hymn; and the 19-minute Shibucho (1984), one of his earliest meditations on (and remixes of) world-music.

The sampling-based soundscapes of Four Pieces (EAM, 1989) were constructed from computer-organized samples of classical music and electronic music; basically a collaboration between an Apple Macintosh computer, a Prophet 2002 sampler and a Yamaha TX 816 synthesizer. The 15-minute Shing Kee (1986) mixes a breathing sound, a call full of longing and industrial metronomies, but halfway turns into a church hymn sung by a female and its echoe vibrates under ancient vaults until it's taken away by an astral organ. Wall Me Do (1987) is rather trivial minimalist repetition, whereas the 17-minute Sonali (1988) uses minimalist repetition to stage a cubistic ballet around simple, Caribbean-tinged singsong melody that eventually evokes the Penguin Cafè Orchestra, with a comic operatic finale worthy of a Marx Brothers slapstick. Hop Ken (1989) is a series of digital variations on Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition

The triple-LP Electronic Music From The Seventies And Eighties (Unseen Worlds, 2016) collects Lim (1974), a not particularly interesting fluctuation of abrasive drones, Chao Praya (1973), another minor composition, Sukothai (1977), the 29-minute Unthaitled (1978), which sounds like a remix of Sukothai, Kuk Il Kwan (1981), the 21-minute Dong Il Jang (1982), a rather trivial case of vocal minimalism, Shibucho (1984), and Shing Kee (1986).

Other compositions of the era include: Thonburi (1989), She Gol Jib (1991) for Japanese flute and electronics, Rezukuja (1991) for percussion and electronics, and Recurring Cosmos (1991) for video and electronics.

The evening-length collage Kamiya Bar (1992), documented on Kamiya Bar (New Tone, 1995), was based on sounds of Tokyo's city life.

Mom's (New Albion, 1992) contains a reprise of Shing Kee, as well as the languid undulations of Banteay Srey (1991) for keyboards and voice, and the 18-minute world-music collage of Chao Nue (1990) that glides into a mysterious world of hissing drones and bubbling melodic fragmnets.

Over-Ring-Under (EMI, 1992) is the soundtrack to a videogame.

Monogatari - Amino Argot (Trigram, 1994) documents a long-distance collaboration between Carl Stone and Otomo Yoshihide.

Electronic Music From The Eighties And Nineties (Unseen Worlds, 2018) contains Sonali, Woo Lae Oak, Banteay Srey, and Mae Yao.

The four-movement collage symphony Nyala on Em:t 1196 (Em:t, 1996 - Time, 1996), originally composed for a ballet, consists of an ambient droning movement, a brief percussive movement, a liquid jazzy psychedelic third movement, and a final movement of anguished unstable loops and samples.

Chaotic live electronic poems appeared on Exusiai (Newtone, 1999) and on Nak Won (Sonore, 2002).

The double-disc Resonator (Kunishima, 2002), a split with Nagaya Kazuya, contains Stone's 56-minute Sapp.

Pict.soul (Cycling '74, 2001) documents a long-distance collaboration with Tetsu Inoue.

Al-Noor (In Tone Music, 2007) contains Al-Noor (11:13), a cryptic, haunting composition for a-cappella female voices, Flint's (9:28), the demented remix of a dance-pop song, Jitlada (10:00), a rather facile loop of Arabic singing and beats, and especially the post-modernist take on Sixties rock music L'Os a Moelle (24:14), a surreal "mix" of a guitar riff that echoes Them's Gloria and jangling guitars a` la Byrds, later joined by a comic kazoo and more romantic, Duane Eddy-esque guitar lines. The piece keeps shifting and evolving via distorted, warped melodies that evoke the naive psychedelic music of the 1960s as well as Morricone soundtracks.

Collaborations with jazz saxophonist Alfred Harth yielded Gift Fig (2012), The Expats (2013), that documents a Japanese live performance of 2010 with also guitarist Kazuhisa Uchihashi and Sam Bennett, and Stellenbosch (Kendra Steiner, 2015).

Stone turned decisively towards computer-manipulated world-music. Baroo (Unseen Worlds, 2019) contains two jovial remixes of Caribbean fanfares, Baroo and Sun Nong Dan (the latter pulverized into a swirling blender), but especially the ten-minute Xe May, that mixes and remixes a jazz pulsation and Arabic litanies until to evocate insane states of mind.

The double-LP Himalaya (Unseen Worlds, 2019) collects composed between 2013 and 2019, and represents the peak of his pan-ethnic sample-based and synth-based music collages. Some of these collages are simply delirious: Bia Bia, built from the Foundations' song Build Me Up Buttercup, sounds like Jon Hassell on steroids at a Brazilian dance party, followed by a hysterical gospel-soul jam. And that's calm compared with the tribal African frenzy of Jame Jam, that could have been inspired by the Beach Boys' Barbara Ann as well as by Pete Seeger's Wimoweh. Kikanbou (17:15) ventures into funk-disco territory, starting with a loop of Nile Rodgers-esque guitar that opens the way for thick wooden African percussions that get filtered into a syncopated beat surrounded by metallic industrial noises. Fujiken (20:58) is a droning collage of Vietnamese field recordings. Himalaya (13:04) is a lengthy poignant vocal improvisation by Japanese vocalist Akaihirume over tenuous organ lines, somewhere between Joan LaBarbara and Bjork. One of the best reimaginations of world-music in the digital age.

Carl Stone's plunderphonics crafted a few more of those amusing gems on Stolen Car (2020), whose title is an anagram of his name Carl Stone: the Indian-tinged drill'n'bass Pasjoli (with chopped vocal samples), the chaotic carnival Huanchaco (with funk-jazz overtones), the thundering Chinese opera Hinatei, the garbled baroque fanfare Rinka (with Handel-ian symphonic choir), and the energetic flute-driven folk dance The Jugged Hare, a remix of Mitski's Strawberry Blond. His sampling skills are on display in the most facile song, Au Jus, which is just the stuttering, cubistic remix of a pop song, and Bojuk pulverizes Ariana Grande. The second half of the album has more intellectual experiments like the eight-minute trance-y Ganci, the seven-minute propulsive Figli and the abstract Xiomara. They can't compete with the delirious euphoria of the shorter songs, but the slowly unfolding eleven-minute ambient lullabye Saaris closes the album on a glorious note, a straightforward melody that rises on the ashes of minimalist and psychedelic music.

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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