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Friday, April 25, 2014

Things That A Mutant Needs To Know, More Short And Amazing Stories (Unsounds, 2013) ****½

By Stef 

There are times when you weep at how music is turned into a commodity, the result of fast and cheap production, to be shoved into the maelstrom of sonic consumerism, the flavor of the day, and on to the next one. Luckily there are also exceptions, when the end product is presented like a gem, like something highly valuable, the result of lots of investments by various people, the result of a clear artistic vision, the result of passion, the result of love. 

This is the case with "Things That A Mutant Needs To Know, More Short And Amazing Stories", a wonderful book of literary texts, a collection of fifty-five short tales and fifty-five brief musical works composed and performed by some of today's most forward-thinking artists. 

The idea is the result of Reinaldo Laddaga repeating the initiative that Argentinian authors Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares published in 1955, called "Cuentos breves y extraordinarios" ("Short And Amazing Stories"). Laddaga collected this new volume of amazing stories from the hand of authors like Lucian of Samosata, Herodotos, Cicero, Virginia Woolf, Emanuel Swedenborg, Blaise Cendrars, D.H. Lawrence, Oscar Wilde, Martin Buber, Carl Jung, Sir John Mandeville, often not even stories but very short excerpts that set a mood, a bizarre context, a disruption of expectations, taking the reader by surprise and opening new ways of thinking. 

The music itself is brought by the avant-garde musicians of today, and in that respect a great introduction to new and free music, to new artists and new concepts, giving us more than two hours of music in mostly very short evocations or interpretations of the stories. The artists include John Butcher, Christine Abdelnour and Andy Moor, well known to the readers of this blog, and also Claudio Baroni, Justin Bennett, Sylvia Borzelli, Alan Courtis, DJ Sniff (Takuro Mizuta), Barbara Ellison, Ron Ford, Yannis Kyriakides, Anne La Berge, Reinaldo Laddaga, Francisco López, Machinefabriek (Rutger Zuydervelt), Gabriel Paiuk, Santiago Santero, and Felipe Waller.

The music is avant-garde, in a high variety of approaches, acoustic, electronic, improvised or composed, dubbed or instant creation, yet always interesting. Like a box of Belgian chocolates, you get a lot of choice, but all the very finest quality.

It is published in the form of a book with two CDs, but also as an iBook, in English and Spanish. And it is relatively unique. There is lots of music inspired by literature, but seldom do they come together in one package, and definitely not such a nicely produced one.

Some advice to buyers of this book CD: because you can't read and listen at the same time, it is best to read one story, savour it, then listen to the accompanying music ... savour it fully ... take your time ... and then to move on to the next surprise.

Let yourself be carried away in a world of slow wonder.