CANTUS UMBRARUM by “Lightwave” Horizon Music, 2000 http://www.hmnetwork.com “Lightwave” is an electronic music group with a changing membership, mostly French, and their music definitely has a Euro sound to it. This is not the rock-driven electro-pop of the famous Germans of Tangerine Dream and their ilk, but an earlier, much more mysterious sound which harkens back to the earliest experiments, forty and fifty years ago, of electronic musicians in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Back then they made their way with oscillators and filters and tape manipulation and, if they were lucky, Ondes Martenot– yet “Lightwave” keeps the old heritage in these pieces in the computer-dominated 21st century. The Cantus Umbrarum (it means “Song of Shadows” in Latin) album arose from a musical and spoken word “installation” which was produced in a series of caves in Vercors, France. Visitors would pass through the caves while the music and text was playing. Naturally the music is designed to evoke the subterranean world, and it does so beautifully with pure electronic tones both beeping and sustained, synthesizer washes, processed sound-effects and Rich-ian watery “glurp,” as well as material played on acoustic instruments such as violin, Turkish clarinet, and bass clarinet. The tuning is often microtonal or “whole-tone." At some points, “Lightwave’s” music is almost exactly like some of the “atonal” music that dominated “serious” concert halls for the decades between 1950 and 1980. One factor that may deter potential listeners to Cantus Umbrarum is that the album includes the spoken texts which were used in the caves, and much of this is in French, which not all listeners in the USA will know. There are also some text passages in Italian and English, but even if you do know the other languages, you may not appreciate so much spoken word material, which tends to get in the way of the music. Yet there are some long and exceptionally beautiful “instrumental” passages between the texts in this album, especially in cuts 3,8, 11, and 13. There are also two extra pieces at the end without spoken word, one of which (“Erebus”, cut 14) features an extremely weird wailing vocal track. I really liked this album, but I admit that it is not going to appeal to many people, even “ambient” fans. Perhaps it might work better if “Lightwave” were to eliminate the spoken words and simply develop the musical part as a “soundtrack album.” Even so, you’d be left with a very odd production echoing the electronics of Europe through deep dark caves of almost impenetrable esotericism. HMGS rating: 8 out of 10 11/7/00
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