ALEXANDER BERNE: Flickers of Mime – Death of Memes – Innova (2)

by | Dec 6, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews

ALEXANDER BERNE: Flickers of Mime; Death of Memes – Alexander Berne, various wind instruments and electronics – Innova Recordings 804 (Distr. by Naxos), 106:43 (2 CDs) ****:
I first became familiar with Alexander Berne’s music through his three disc set on Innova featuring his absolutely one of a kind blending of saxophone, homemade instruments and other exotic sources. Berne is a composer with roots in the jazz world but is poised for a complete break through in the truly alternative realms of non-traditional contemporary classical and even some ambient sounds. He has had experiences in the visual arts as well but this set, together with his first set, are absolutely compelling and hypnotic.
Berne has worked for years on finding new ways of making and using sounds from reed instrument origins. For example, these works include his own hybrid concoctions of a flute and saxophone mouthpiece, a reeded slide trumpet and a saxophone/shakuhachi creation. One of his trademark sounds is his “saduk” – essentially a duduk with a sax mouthpiece. All of the sounds and the progression of these works together makes for very immersive, submerged, almost meditative sounds that some listeners would find a close relative to the music of Brian Eno, Jon Hassell and even Steve Roach (all strong compliments!). Berne plays all the instruments himself and laboriously mixes the sounds in the studio overlaying and morphing tracks to the desired effect; the resultant “choir” he calls The Abandoned Orchestra.
In this disc, Berne has constructed two long delicately evolving works. The first (disc one) is his Flickers of Mime, that the composer says is a very eastern-sounding “rising arc”, intended to sound like what a mime might conjure up, in imagery, as an ancient city from a lost culture; for example. The second disc, Death of Memes begins ominously, with an almost primitive sound. The imagery here, he explains, is of a culture (the same culture, perhaps) in decline – a downward arc of the same evocative circle. At the very beginning, this music reminded me in some ways of Jorge Reyes. Berne constructs his music – amazingly – from all acoustic sources, processed electronically (except – as he points out – for one of those old wind blown synthesizers that are now quite obsolete!) Ultimately, this is music that does conjure up imagery – primitive, celestial, dreamlike, abstract – and leaves an impression. It is a little difficult to “place” Alexander Berne’s music; but he creates his own place. I think that if you liked his three disc saxophone-driven anthology, you will love this. If you know the music of Brian Eno, Steve Roach, Jon Hassell and like it, I believe you will definitely like this. I think Alexander Berne is a fascinating guy and a name to know. I would still love to hear him live sometime. [This is a limited edition of 1000 handmade, double-disc packages, each personally signed by Berne…Ed.]
—Daniel Coombs

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