On her newest solo project, New York-based composer Andrea Parkins fashioned a soundscape in which intrigue works in tandem with a slowly emerging but grandiose structure. She creates a world in which notions of size and density become relative, the scope of her vision gaining clarity only through repeated listening.
The piece is a study in contrast, juxtaposing electronic and acoustic sounds. At first, the two strains exist in tandem; objects are thrust and rolled across the stereo spectrum at varying speeds, while a sharp but transparent high-frequency drone emerges and slowly morphs. The groundwork has been laid, and the rest of the disc presents similar material in textures of varying thickness. Often electronic sounds will pick up where acoustic ones end, such as when the hollow rattle and pop that opens “Part 2” leads directly to a rich but momentary tonal cluster. The electronic sounds ebb and flow in slow fade, in direct contrast to the acoustic sounds, which jump with sudden rapidity in and out of focus.
The overall effect is surprisingly transparent, even at moments of high density. Parkins unites electronic and acoustic sound by using especially bright timbres, so that the ring of metal complements the multi-phonic sheen of controlled voltage. In “Part 4,” to cite only one example, the exact boundaries separating the two worlds are difficult to locate as sustained metallic drones merge with piercing oscillator buzz. Then, there are the moments of near silence, punctuated by tonal wisps and ambient rustlings. The fifth part exudes an air of expectancy, silence waiting around each corner to swallow each fragment.
The project emerges as a series of connected arches, each of a different character while being formed of fairly similar timbral material. Parkins’ ear for spatial detail is as remarkable as her sonic palette is diverse. Faulty (Broken Orbit) is an extremely streamlined take on musique concrete, and all the more impressive considering that it was originally a live installation at Brooklyn’s Diapason Gallery. Such repurposing of material is rarely successful, but this disc stands quite well on its own as a testament to Parkins’ innovative sense of compositional form.