Tuesday, January 26, 2010

50 Cent Albums: "The Sinking of the Titanic" by Gavin Bryars

one track - complete album (60:19)
available here

I have three versions of "The Sinking of the Titanic", the first being the 1975 recording famously released on Brian Eno's Obscure records label, where it took up one side of a vinyl long-player. That is certainly a classic, and is available in the blogosphere if you look. The most recent version, on Touch, was recorded in Italy in 2005 with an ensemble including Bryars himself, Alter Ego and Philip Jeck on turntables. Though much lauded, I find it almost unlistenable. The implementation seems to have wandered significantly from the original concept.

That concept can be simply explained. The ship is sinking; the band plays on; the music drowns. This definitive 1990 recording was recorded live by the Gavin Bryars Ensemble in a disused Napoleonic water tower in Bourges. That perfect sonic environment is matched by the murky recording that mixes the strings, interview recordings and various random sounds into an ocean of sound, to use David Toop's phrase in a literal sense.

The feeling of going down with the ship is palpable, as the composer recreates the experience of listening to the Titanic's band play the hymn "Autumn", even as they are being submerged. It's quite a dark album; if you have no fear of drowning now, you might feel differently in an hour.

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