London-born musician Shiva Feshareki has always blended two seemingly contradictory worlds. She is best known for creating improvisatory, sampledelic soundscapes using DJ equipment: Stanton turntables, a Roland Space Echo, the real-time sampling capabilities of a Korg Kaoss Pad, a theremin which spins on a turntable to create unusual electronic pulses. But she’s also a trained composer with a doctorate from the Royal College of Music, and has long championed avant garde works by likeminded women such as Pauline Oliveros, Éliane Radigue and Leslie García.
This album straddles both of Feshareki’s worlds. The main event is Still Point, a 40-minute concerto for double orchestra and turntables that was written – incredibly – in 1948 by a 23-year-old Daphne Oram, a decade before she founded the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Feshareki spent years exploring Oram’s archive in order to reimagine Still Point with fellow composer James Bulley before performing it at the 2018 Proms, and this is an eventful realisation. The first movement sounds like a grand, ominous film score, laced with high modernism; the second is a dystopian collage of 78rpm turntable sounds, discordant effects and air raid sirens. The final movement is the sound of a nation emerging from the ravages of war – shabby, end-of-empire grandeur and postwar uncertainty, all put through the dub chamber.
Even more impressive is Aetherworld, a 20-minute epic that Feshareki composed for last year’s Proms. Here she uses the doomy, heavily treated voices of the BBC Singers to generate a slowly mutating series of harmonic drones and resonances, complemented by Kit Downes’s organ and her own turntable manipulations, playing distorted snatches of a choral Renaissance piece by the French composer Josquin des Prez. It is a thoroughly immersive work, filled with microscopic sonic details and different timbres that rewards close listening on headphones.
Also out this month
Weather Systems I: A Hard Rain (Islandia Music) is a two-CD set from percussionist and professor Steven Schick that is not only a great compilation of percussion music but also a brilliant primer to 20th-century modernism, from Stockhausen’s Zyklus to Morton Feldman’s King of Denmark, from Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate to Charles Wuorinen’s Janissary Music. The latest album by veteran composer Carl Stone, Wat Dong Moon Lek (Unseen Worlds), takes tiny snippets of existing records (Thai balladeers, 80s popsters Boy Meets Girl, free-jazz, high-fructose pop), slices them into tiny fragments on the music processing software Max and reassembles them into wonderfully disorientating, burbling and quite addictive sound collages. Tuba player Martin Taxt’s album Second Room (Sofa) is a series of low-pitched horn drones, temple bells, organs and electronically treated sounds – best of all is the final track, which sounds like a piece of free improvisation played in ultra-slow-motion.