Adelaide-raised, London-based composer Matthew Shlomowitz’s new album Avant Muzak is a witty, absurdist masterpiece of contemporary sound art. My instant reaction to the first track Popular Contexts 7: Public Domain Music is “What in the world am I listening to?” It seems an accidental greeting between Angelo Badalamenti, a Japanese train station, and reggae. And if that doesn’t bring a smile to one’s face, few albums will.
As justified by Shlomowitz in the notes: “Composition is not so much about creating musical material as what you do with it.” And indeed, he has reconstructed the sounds of the physical world to create his own pocket of reality, in which musical instruments jab abruptly into silence, and trivial cafeteria-chatter morphs into music. It’s not relevant if a baby’s cry or the churn of a machine is captured or composed; similarly, if the album’s ensemble Asamisimasa is performing music or submitting sound.
Comfortably Glock from Popular Contexts 8 draws us into a feeling of calm through its minimal soundscape; while Session Drummer is a bizarre (albeit witty) new arrangement of a popular Debussy work. The title work Avant Muzak names its movements by tempo and sound (such as Starting and stopping; with girl poem); ingrained self-analysis is evident in all aspects. I look forward to listening to this album again. It’ll undoubtedly unearth some hidden treasures, and new meanings in the way we understand sound and melody in our daily lives.
Composer: Matthew Shlomowitz
Catalogue Number: All That Dust ATD2