Formats: DOUBLE AUDIO CD, AKAI/GIGA CD‑ROM
***** Score = 5/5 stars
Brian Transeau's second offering represents another giant step for mankind; rather than organising the sounds by key, instrument, or timbre, BT has attempted to categorise them by emotional type, resulting in headings such as "Nostalgia", "Wonderment", "Disturbed/Frantic", and so on. Since we English aren't in touch with our emotions, I decided to ignore the suggested categories and simply listen to the sounds.
Immediately, I was filled with wonderment and nostalgia. 'Harmonic Lover' is a 38‑second evolving, semi‑pitched sound that starts as a major chord, falls apart, then continually pitch‑shifts, dissolves, and regroups under the influence of some mad, periodic flanging program. Its haunting atmosphere, suggestive to me of astral travel, is described by BT as 'paranormal disturbance'. 'Flute Harmonium', on the other hand, features a serene, Indian‑flavoured flute bathed in expensive echo, whose notes blossom, fade and overlap. The sample is 73 seconds long, and in BT's words, evokes the feeling: "Hopeful of another peaceful day as one watches a sunset". You can see the sort of area we're getting into here — Cradle Of Filth this is not.
Elsewhere, there are ethnic twanglings and jinglings, tamburas and sitars, reversed ethnic winds, fuzz didgeridoos, booming sub‑basses, and a very nice thunder sample. One backwards‑echoed Poltergeist‑style racket named 'Naiica' sounds like Carol Anne got bored living inside the TV and, together with the other lost souls, formed an a capella band specialising in Bulgarian women's choir covers. Several other samples evoke classic psychedelia; BT may not have been born when 'Piper At The Gates Of Dawn' hit the shops, but he knows how to capture the euphoric mood of late '60s experimentalism.
It's not all peace and love and, this being the music business, "Happiness/ Accomplishment" is overshadowed by categories labelled "Hate/Anger/Rage" and "Fear/Terror". These offer the terrific 'Gong Overtones' (which suggested to my paranoid mind a dark, hovering presence) and 'The Love Of Anger', featuring low orchestral string octaves beautifully blended with wind noise and a soft, indeterminate minor chord. I'd love to spend 20 pages describing all the other samples, but there are way too many — 460 in all, totalling nearly 1.3Gb. Many of them sound like film cues, either of the scary sci‑fi type (think of Alien's spaceship interior deep rumble), or the disturbing industrial soundtrack of Eraserhead.
In my opinion, few of the sounds lend themselves to traditional chord pads. Many are unpitched, semi‑pitched, multi‑pitched, or of changing pitch, while others have distinct single pitches, but are just too huge or complex‑sounding to form chords. Ready‑made, nicely voiced chords such as major sevenths and minor ninths do appear, but their sound textures remain relatively complex and mysterious — the dreaded 'man playing jazz chord on a synthesizer' syndrome is entirely absent.
While the samples (all looped and in stereo) are strong enough to stand on their own, I found that they really came to life when overlapped and played at different pitches. The combinations are almost infinite, and keyboardists should have hours of fun making up unpredictable electronic symphonies based on just a few key pushes. Whether or not the emotional categories idea works for you, Twisted Textures is a very useful and admirably varied collection of short, self‑contained sonic mood pieces. Like Breakz, the sound design is sophisticated, showing great skill in blending disparate, synthetic elements into something organic and natural‑sounding.
This title deserves to be popular, not just with Björk‑ish neo‑hippies, but with contemporary media composers looking for a sound to evoke anything from the sea bed to the moons of Neptune. Twisted Textures nicely complements Breakz, giving us lucky consumers a library of interesting and engaging mood drones to accompany BT's blatting breakbeats.
Double Audio CD set £79.95; Akai/Giga CD‑ROM £199. Prices include VAT.
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