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Various Artists Serenitatem

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Serenitatem, the new collaboration from Visible Cloaks, Yoshio Ojima & Satsuki Shibano, is the 15th instalment of the FRKWYS series, which brings cross-generational artists from around the world together to record an album.

Serenitatem combines the group's shared interest in generative composition with Shibano's impressionist piano playing, Japanese poetry, synthesised global instruments and field recordings. The album plays with the listener's discomfort in the obviously synthetic, the real and 'too real' combining. Much of its harmony is derived from tone clusters built from randomised MIDI notes, while Shibano's dreamy piano plays call and response with uncanny digital flutes, voices and sparse percussion, all of which emphasise this uneasiness. At points the album resembles an ambient version of the avant-mall hellscapes of James Ferraro's Far Side Virtual.

plays with the listener's discomfort

'Toi' emphasises the uncanny from the start, with digital water droplets, breathy pads, glass harp and various pristine synth glitches all conjuring the eeriness of a luxury hotel. 'Anata' combines treated voice with electronics and a rich swelling drone, before 'You' immediately pulls it back to just tuned percussion and piano, later adding a background of psychedelic electronics.

'S'Amours ne fait par sa grace adoucir (Ballade 1)' provides variety by introducing a creaking organ playing a folkish, almost medieval progression that is enjoyable but feels secondary. 'Lapis Lazuli' focuses on the folding soundscapes Visible Cloaks did so well on Reassemblage with added Laurie Anderson vocoder, while personal highlight 'Stratum' begins with impressively accurate gamelan tuned gongs before a hocketed passage of voice and marimba.

Jack Buckley

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