EIVIND BUENE: ‘Possible Cities/Essential Landscapes’ = Possible Cities; Grid; Landscape with Ruins; Ultrabucolic Studies; Molto Fluido; Nature Morte – Cikada (ensemble)/Christian Eggen, cond. – 2L (Lindberg Lyd.) 2L-083 SABD  5.1 DTS or 2.0 LPCM Blu-ray Audio-only + SACD, 76:53 [Distr. by Naxos] ***:
Those familiar with the work of Stockhausen, in particular, and (in a way) Henry Brant will know the intent and sound of spatial music; that which relies on creative arrangements of instruments within the listening environment. In the case of Buene’s work, there is also a use of shared melodic and motivic fragments that seem to dance about the score and the resultant sound. Be aware that this music is interesting and cleverly and thoughtfully constructed but – for some, I am sure – will seem quite “modern” with its liberal use of tone groups (not true rows), atonality and drifting modality.
Eivind Buene is a young Norwegian composer and graduate of the Norwegian Academy of Music who has built a reputation around his unique sound and vision. He collaborates frequently with artists who specialize in improvisatory techniques.
To explain this very unusual collection, Buene offers an analogy to navigating through a new and unfamiliar city. From his notes, he states, “…A big city will invite you through unfamiliar streets, into dark alleyways and sudden openings of light. It demands active participation… (Possible Cities/Essential Landscapes) is an invitation to listen into a landscape where stories emerge, multiply and disappear…”  I agree with the composer’s self-assessment of the effects of these works. They are strange but compelling, mysterious; even a bit ominous in places and not “difficult” to listen to. The listener unfamiliar with music like this (or the examples I cite that Eivind Buene may find a stretch) may have difficulty with this but I do think this is worth listening to more than once.
The other reason to check this out, though, is that the performances are high quality and the sound is excellent! This packaging from Norway-based Lindberg Lyd (2L) features both a dual format Blu-ray audio as well as a second “standard” SACD. Both versions offer really clear, fascinating surround sound and give you the chance to play with the balance on your system, but the separation and “presence” on the 5.1 Blu-ray is especially impressive.
The work by the Cikada ensemble is quite good and it is clear that this is demanding music to perform correctly. The booklet shows the composer’s spatial arrangement of the instrumentation in each of the seven works. It really is fascinating to note Buene’s use of things like “ambient violin” that sounds barely present with the very precisely diagrammed microphone placement, as well. There are other setups such as where to put the piano that greatly affect the dominant timbres of each separate work.
I think Eivind Buene is a very interesting composer (also a writer on music and related topics as well as a novelist!)  I would certainly like to hear more. I recommend this to anyone for the audio qualities and the resultant experimentation that can be undertaken. The music itself is intriguing to be sure and – again – would appeal mostly to those already familiar with what could incompletely be called abstract.
—Daniel Coombs