Thursday, October 13, 2011

Biota's Mnemonists, Musique Actuelle 1990: Get Ready for Anything

A friend of mine about a year ago heard some of my music and mentioned the group Biota as someone I might like. I followed up and found their Mnemonists, Musique Actuelle 1990 (Anomalous 025) on the web. Mine was a used copy; I believe the Biotamusic site lists outlets where it might be found new. The album was commissioned apparently by Montreal's Musique Actuelle--New Music America. This CD was a byproduct, if not the sole objective. It's a band formed in 1979 in Fort Collins, Colorado as the Mnemonist Orchestra and they are in a league of their own. Or were? It is not clear how active they are. At any rate it is one of a number of albums they have made.

This one is an unpredictable, rather wildly experiment in electro-acoustic music. It combines electronic transformations of conventional music, avant classical, rock and/or folksy strains played on conventional instruments, and more or less pure electro-acoustics.

This is music so unexpected and different that you must hang with it repeatedly to get on its wavelength. Much of it has a dark soundcape-y quality; other musical events punctuate and perforate the matrix to shift the mood and provide a different sort of gravitational pull.

It is not music that meets you half-way. Rather you are invited over to their terrain to make your ears comfortable as best they can. In the end you get something you might not have bargained for, an unexpected find of otherworldy sounds that evolve and transform in the hour-plus playing time, taking you places you have probably never been. Those with a need to seek out the very different will find this to their liking, I'd imagine. If you find, for example, that early Pink Floyd didn't go far enough into the cosmic landscape, this is no doubt for you. It is fairly extreme but also extremely well done.


  1. I think Biota is a paragon of American musical creativity. The fertility of their collective imagination is unparalleled - there are few, if any experimental bands that have recorded with the consistent quality of Biota while maintaining the continual artistic evolution of the group. I think maybe it's that evolution that surprises me the most. Most experimental bands tend to find a sound and stick with it; or to confuse harshness/abrasiveness with "experimentalism". Each release finds Biota approaching some sort of musical apotheosis asymptotically - each release is wildly different then the last, but they all inhabit the same universe. While they can certainly be abrasive at times (this album especially), they have many more moments of lush, alien beauty.

    God, I love this band.

  2. Thank you for those wisely put comments. I find the band quite interesting myself, and would cover more of their work if I was sent it.