Okkyung Lee, Lasse Marhaug & C. Spencer Yeh - Wake Up Awesome - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Okkyung Lee, Lasse Marhaug & C. Spencer Yeh - Wake Up Awesome

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2013-11-25

What I know about this album can be summed up pretty succinctly: Wake Up Awesome is the second album by SSTUDIOS (Software Studios Series) which aims to invite artists in the field of electronic music to create collaborative works. This album follows Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin's 2012 album Instrumental Tourist. And that's it. With the searching power of Google and info from press release at my disposal, what I know about this release amounts to pretty much bugger all. Doesn't happen to me often these days. And when it does, it's exciting.

So musician and multimedia artist C Spencer Yeh (who's also collaborated with Thurston Moore), cellist Okkyung Lee, and Norwegian noise-merchant Lasse Marhaug are the trio collaborating here. I don't know how they went about their collaboration, but the music they've produced sounds so thoroughly disjointed I suspect email and some method of chance similar to ones employed by Brian Eno may have been used. Across its 15, mostly short tracks, you encounter dizzying, scattershot assaults of musique concrete; yawning chasms of drone; scrapes and bangs of industrial noise; folktronic, pop-culture collective-memory bleeps and bloops from obsolete tech; and sudden washes of post-rave, come-down ambience.

First track 'Wake Up Awesome' is actually the easiest to grasp, consisting of sorrowful and portentous cello coupled with a slightly incongruous Jew's harp. From then on, however, there's no let-up. The awesomely titled 'Anise Tongue and Durian Wet Dream', for example, manages to pack in pretty much every major trend in avant-garde music since the 50s in under two minutes, from full-on white noise assault to information-overload bricolage to cosmic soundscape, all of it punctured by a cheesy old-time piano jingle. It's disorientating, beautiful, harsh, oddly melancholy and darkly humorous all at the same time.

The cut-and-paste experimentation of Matmos seems a good modern reference point, as well as Boredoms and John Zorn, but Wake Up Awesome also echoes back to pioneers of electronic music such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Delia Derbyshire and Edgard Varèse. It's not all hard work, either: the pulsing emptiness which underpins closing track 'Tonight We Sleep Like Empty Hard Drives' and the 80s sci-fi sadness of 'Ophelia Gimme Shelter' (great titles on here) are as beautiful as they are intense.

For the most part, though, Wake Up Awesome is an album which will sort the alternative adults from the mewling younglings; my housemate hates it and has been loudly declaring it shit since I started writing this review. He's a man who enjoys the operatic death-disco of Klaus Nomi, so he's not one to usually shy away from out-there noise. Wake Up Awesome will simply do a lot of people's heads in, but it might actually expand yours. Worth a gamble, surely?


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