Tilman Robinson's 'CULTURECIDE' Puts a Political Twist on Electroacoustic Composition
Published Apr 24, 2020It has been some years since classical minimalist Tilman Robinson granted the world a proper album. His highly-praised 2016 release, Deer Heart, was a warm bath of spacious resonance and electroacoustic experiments, employing a combination of acoustic and digital instruments. Robinson's latest album, CULTURECIDE, continues his methodology with the addition of field recordings, such as heart rate monitors and other medical equipment, to produce sound, and it's a stunning next step in the evolution of his sound.
While the album is instrumental, Robinson's message is highly political. Not only does the album title infer the death of culture, it evokes a mourning for the world we have collectively created. Song titles reference global warming, economic instability, devastating colonial influence and dishonest politicians, making it classical protest music in effect.
CULTURECIDE begins with a constant arpeggiation of notes generated by tonally rich synthesizers. The pulsations create an atmosphere of tension, which is a feeling that permeates the work throughout. Single "Bartholomew, Glowing" is punctuated by bass drops and high-frequency hiccuping rhythms, while rumbling faintly beneath are murky vocal samples of a controversial politician from Robinson's native Australia, whose voice is beaten down and buried by a hammered dulcimer. Other songs, such as "Teach Me to Destroy You," focus more on Robinson's continued work with small chamber orchestras, and "Proxy Wars" features a double bass bowed slowly and with power, ceasing momentarily to make way for choral arrangements of lyric-less suspended chords.
Robinson's approach feels academic, but the themes are common. This world is in a bad way, and his objection to the state of things feels edifying and important. Fans of modern composition with a cinematic flare would do well to investigate CULTURECIDE for its message and majesty. (Bedroom Community)