Cor Unvers

by Lee Fraser

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about

"And speaking of magic, the album that’s got me more excited than anything else lately is Cor Unvers, a new CD on the US Ge-stell label from English composer Lee Fraser. Fraser’s last album, 2014’s Dark Camber, was my album of the year and remains one of the best things i’ve ever heard. That’s a lot to live up to, but Cor Unvers not only manages to do just that, but listening to its four tracks is like hearing electronic music for the first time all over again.

One of its great strengths – and this was also true of Dark Camber – is Fraser’s unique dramatic sensibility. From one perspective, it would be easy to characterise his work as streams of consciousness. Certainly, in all his work there’s a robust sense of forward motion, of ideas continually evolving and reshaping themselves both independently and in response to other ideas impinging upon them. There are no repeats or recaps in Fraser’s music: always onward, for the most part never looking back. To an extent this makes Fraser’s music difficult to talk about – difficult, indeed, to get your head around and get a handle on. My first encounter with Cor Unvers was 38 minutes of overwhelmed bedazzlement; it’s taken time and further encounters just to be able to begin to say something coherent about it. Furthermore, many of the things Fraser does with sound are practically indescribable: it’s like watching a fireworks and light display beamed to Earth from an alien planet. But to return to my main point, it's Fraser’s dramatic sensibility that makes these discombobulating streams of consciousness coalesce into music that at no point is anything less than completely compelling and, amazingly, convincing.

Using Csound to compose his music, literally from the ground up, these four pieces are about as removed as it’s possible to be from the anecdotal and recognisable elements prevalent in most electronic music. They’re exercises in sheer synthesis, in the plasticity of sound, scrutinising it at a molecular level before playfully constructing it into entirely new sonic elements. That makes it sound scientific, but it’s not at all: play is what typifies the behaviour of these pieces, radical acts of creation governed by quirk and caprice and whimsy. Inevitably, now and again a sound – or, more often, an agglomeration or juxtaposition of sounds – will act as a mental trigger, bringing to mind bells, streams, shimmering light, metallic clatter or, on one occasion, rotating bicycle spokes. But these are less deliberate evocations and allusions on Fraser’s part than subjective attempts to parse and decipher and navigate through the music’s inscrutable soundworlds, where ideas are at one moment aligned in intricate grids, the next hurled over each other with muscular force like the splashes across a Pollock canvas, where enervated textures are abruptly injected with vast quantities of energy, where multiple climaxes can take place without diminishing their power or impact, and where just when you thought sound couldn’t be more immediately foregrounded, something happens so impossibly close it’s as if it had jumped right out of the speakers onto your face.

This is the apogee of electronic abstract expressionism, the most gloriously awe-inspiring display of sheer creativity, and easily the best thing i’ve heard all year – by far. Just incredible."

Simon Cummings at 5:4

credits

released June 19, 2018

Mastered by Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering. Pline Expol A composed 2015-2016. Commissioned by Distractfold Ensemble for the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music 2016. Instantia Crucis composed 2008-2009. Ply composed 2010-2011. Reliq Ens composed 2016-2017. Commissioned by Distractfold Ensemble for Cut & Splice 2017 with support from Sound and Music and BBC Radio 3. Design: Joe Gilmore. © Ge-stell 2018. ge-stell.net

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