Alarm Will Sound

    Alarm Will Sound Performs Aphex Twin: Acoustica

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    Cantaloupe Music - July 12, 2005

    Over the years, numerous classically trained musicians have interpreted the modern-rock canon. Two of the more high-profile examples are the cello quartet Apocalyptica covering Metallica and Christopher O�Riley re-imagining Radiohead songs as solo piano pieces. Meanwhile, in a land not too far away, electronic musicians have made a sport of covering analog compositions. Atari Teenage Riot sped up and pulverized versions of classic punk songs, and Dalek and Nobukazu Takemura reconstituted some of Handel�s famous work. Hell, even the techno version of 4 Non-Blondes� �What�s Up� has had far more staying power than the original.

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    Now we connect the dots with something brand new. On Acoustica, the twenty-two-piece collective called Alarm Will Sound attempts classical versions of electronic songs. And not just any electronic songs, but those of the enigmatic Richard D. James (also known as Aphex Twin), whose work is certainly not known for its accessibility. Says Alarm Will Sound�s Gavin Chuck: �His music was so complex and imaginative and unique and intelligent � so we knew we could play it and be ourselves.�

    Apparently, in the land of Alarm Will Sound, �be ourselves� means �attempt ludicrously difficult and unnatural musical endeavors.� To their credit, the band members make it work most of the time.

    Acoustica spans Aphex Twin�s complex and often baffling discography, but the bulk of the material (nine of the disc�s thirteen covers) is from 2001�s double-album Drukqs. Although Drukqs isn�t generally regarded as one of Aphex Twin�s best records, it effectively covers many moods, from ambient interludes to chaotic drum �n� bass workouts. (Alarm Will Sound probably couldn�t afford to purchase a complete discography for each of its twenty-two members, either. You gotta compromise sometimes.)

    Acoustica opens with �Cock/Ver 10,� and the listener�s first impression is likely to be, How the hell can a live drummer play that? Stuttering, off-kilter, breakneck beats are obviously much easier to program than they are to play, but the fact that Alarm Will Sound�s four (!) drummers can pull it off should prove to skeptics that Acoustica�s lofty premise can be effectively realized. The discordant track sounds like a composition for a demented Saturday morning kid�s show, the skittering drums, plaintive woodwinds and distorted vocal samples combining to create a musical backdrop for a particularly macabre Sonic the Hedgehog adventure.

    Other tracks possess this cartoonish video-game quality, particularly �Logon Rock Witch� and �Fingerbib,� but that�s certainly not the album�s dominant motif. (It�s hard to have a dominant motif when you�re covering Aphex Twin.) �Blue Calx� cultivates an air of dreary isolation with its persistent quarter-note stomp and droning woodwinds, �4� sounds like segue music for a 1970s network drama as tweaked by DJ Shadow, and �Omgyja Switch 7� is a stuttering dissection of classic film-noir ambience.

    But Acoustica moves into truly rarified air with its final two tracks, in which Berlin-based techno artist Dennis DeSantis remixes Alarm Will Sound�s versions of �Pwep Garlek 3B� and �Cliffs.� Yes, that�s right: An electronic artist remixing the organic compositions of a classical collective�s re-interpretations of a different electronic artist�s work. Excuse me while my head explodes.

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