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CAROLA BAUCKHOLT: Need to talk to friends – Cikada Ensemble – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray + SACD + downloads

CAROLA BAUCKHOLT: Ich muß mit Dir reden (Need to talk to friends) – Cikada Ensemble – 2L Pure Audio Blu-ray 2L-116-SABD + multichannel SACD, 54:20 – DTS-HD MA 192kHz/24 bit 5.1 & PCM stereo, mShuttle: stereo FLAC 96kHz + MP3 –  (2/26/16) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

A haunting electronic score with superb sonics.

This disc is a collection of  contemporary music by composer Carola Bauckholt. Played by the Cikada Ensemble which has gained a reputation far beyond the boundaries of Scandinavia as a special ensemble for contemporary music, as well as for projects at the nexus of composition and improvisation. Its repertoire includes works for electrically amplified string quartet, as well as works which combine acoustic string sound and live electronics. The quartet also often works in unorthodox instrumental combinations such as quintet with accordion. The quartet’s core repertoire includes major works from the second half of the 20th century by composers such as Kaija Saariaho, Rolf Wallin, Luigi Nono,  Iannis Xenakis, Toshio Hosokawa, and James Dillon as well as collaborations with musicians across genres such as Annette Peacock, Steve Swallow and Trygve Seim.

Ms. Bauckholt was born in Krefeld, West Germany. She worked at the theater at the Marienplatz in Krefeld and studied music with Mauricio Kagel the Cologne Musikhochschule from 1978-84.

The music is quite interesting, and there is a large variety of sounds, sometimes I hear what sounds like an electronic equivalent of wood being sawed, at other times I can relate to the sound of distant dogs howling in the night. There are muffled voices, and electronically enhanced plucked strings. I’m not meaning to trivialize the sounds. The sonic picture is quite compelling and interesting.

Needless to say, this music will be appealing to people who like contemporary avant-garde compositions, and to others it will simply be an assault on their ear drums. I’m in the former category, and I enjoyed the experience. The sounds are sometimes startling, sometimes rather dreamlike. On the other hand, it’s not the kind of disc I will listen to over and over.

There are two discs provided in the set, a hybrid SACD disc, and a Blu-ray disc that contains several formats for listening. That includes a 5.1 DTS-HD MA channel. a 2.0 PCM stereo performance, and if you have a blu-ray disc player attached to your computer you can copy off a high resolution FLAC copy of the album, and the lower quality MP3 files. For buyers who want to enjoy this music in the car or on portable devices, it makes the most sense. A solitary SACD disc can’t be copied, and I hope eventually the classical high resolution market moves to the 2L model of providing multiple formats in one purchase. [Unlikely, since it’s funded by a Norwegian government arts group…Ed.]

The disc is far more involving in its multi-channel versions, either on the SACD or Blu-ray. This is percussive and electronic music. At times the sounds seem engaged in conversation moving around the room. I don’t think a listener would get the composer’s desired effect in two-channel stereo.

In terms of sonics, this disc a typical 2L production, meaning it’s of the very highest audio quality. The positions of the instruments are sharply placed. In the surround mix the sounds come from all over the room, yet have very obvious fixed positions, either at the speaker location or floating in between. It’s a demo quality disc, and will certainly be a good test of your speakers and sub-woofer if you have one.

I’ll recommend this disc to lovers of contemporary electronic music. If you’re more traditional in your musical choices, steer well clear. [There is another new Cicada CD in our Classical category…Ed.]

—Mel Martin

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