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    Juan Blanco – Nuestro Tiempo / Our Time

    Juan Blanco - Nuestro Tiempo / Our Time

    Who would ever imagine that electro-acoustic music could thrive in a place like Cuba? Not me! Alas, in the mid-20th century, Juan Blanco (1919-2008) became one of the earliest adopters of experimental music production in that small Caribbean island country, which surprisingly harbored quite a scene of avant garde painters, writers and composers who went on to put their stamp on the international stage. Not surprisingly, this scene coalesced into Sociedad Cultural Nuestro Tiempo, an actual group that was started and funded out of pocket by Blanco himself. After inventing the first sampling keyboard in 1942, a good two decades before that instrument came into popular use, Blanco got inspired by the musique concrete of Pierre Schaeffer and started composing electronic works in the early ’60s on some low-end tape decks that he ordered from Sears! As if that weren’t cool enough, Blanco then became the director of Instituto Cubana de Amistad con el Pueblo, where he staged concerts featuring artists ranging all the way from Luigi Nono to Pink Floyd! In the ’80s, after becoming “involved with multimedia performance, theater ballet, film and environmental sound pieces,” Blanco started the International Festival for Electroacoustic Music in Cuba, followed by the ’90s, when he began composing pieces on a NeXT computer. Collecting pieces from 1961-1993, the Nuestro Tiempo CD spans a full three decades, which formed just part of Blanco’s even longer and illustrious career. Collector scum may note that a few of these works previously appeared on LP on the Egrem label back in the ’70s and ’80s–very rare records which change hands for big bucks now.

    “Cirkus Tokkata” (1983) features the lively improvisational playing of Cuban percussion legends Guillermo Barreto on timbales and Tata Guines on congas. Listen to them pat out polyrhythms over a bed of corroded, boinging and pinging electronics that Blanco rendered via a Roland Jupiter 8 synth. Can you say invigorating? Blanco’s first tape piece, “Musica Para Danza” (1961) offers up woozy, muted oscillator workouts over a veritable jungle of electronic crickets and cicadas courtesy of tape splicing, tape head echo and a healthy dose of overdubbing. “Ella” (1983) presents 15 minutes of stark synth dronescapes of the most candle-lit kind with some strange giggles and rustling sounds near the end. Sounding for all the world like an invasion of flying saucers, “Loops” (1991) layers up a collection of ascending and descending synth tones that range from high-pitched to really low, vaguely like James Tenney’s “For Ann, Rising,” then segues into some shrill yet entrancing droneworks. “Loops” is one of the pieces composed on the NeXT. The most recent piece, “Espacios V” (1993), presents more multi-layers of dissonant space drones with some John Coltrane-like sax melodies on top, which makes for quite a strange combo. With its whooshing electronic storm systems and dark drones with higher-pitched shenanigans, “Galaxia M 50” (1979) closes out this most excellent little coaster that four out of five dentists surveyed claimed is perfect for fans of vintage electronics with a touch of instrumental goodness.

    Label: Innova Catalog Number: innova 248 Format: CD Packaging: Digi-Pak Tracks: 6 Total Time: 64:25 Country: United States Released: 2013 More: Discogs, Innova, J Stor, Wikipedia

    Text ©2013 Arcane Candy

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