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Customer Reviews


Ground-breaking record, really well produced. Emotional, adventurous, interesting. Challenging in the best way possible.

"Plus ou moins?" - More, Definitely More

Even if one is previously unfamiliar with Daniel Wohl's compositions, on first listen, the sophisticated, intricate layering is apparent in each of these pieces, made evident not only by the composer's intentions, but in the album's production itself; stereophonic sounds abound on this album, as well as a distinct suggestion of both background and foreground textures. This music is (at least seemingly) more complex than other such offerings in the electronic music genre and almost exclusively instrumental (textless voices contribute to three of the tracks). A unique and celebrated contributor to his field, Wohl regularly receives commissions from international organizations on the forefront of creative, new music; Bang on a Can in the U.S. is just one example.

It would be inappropriately glib to describe Corps Exquis as simply haunting or surreal. Though the soundscapes on each track do transport the listener to unfamiliar places, one affect does not permeate each of the substantial offerings (many tracks are longer than five minutes); instead, lush, harmonic narratives unfold, presenting not only a myriad of instrumental and vocal colors, but a panoply of emotive expressions. The album itself seems to present an arch form, crescendoing in both intensity and instrumental density before falling once more to the sparseness of the opening tracks.

As the first, tintinnabular sounds emerge from "Neighborhood," one imagines eastern influences, perhaps even a gamelan orchestra. Conversely, tracks such as "Plus ou moins," featuring an unusual, unison doubling of bass clarinet and glockenspiel, suggest a distinctly western heritage; many of these titles are surely indicative of Wohl's French nationality. Atmospheric electronic sounds are almost omnipresent, including the scratchiness of a vinyl record, street noises, trickling water, and even a suggestion of creeping insects. "Limbs" is made striking by both the stuttering effect of repeated piano chords (evocative of a limping victim?) combined with string harmonics reminiscent of a horror film. "Fluctuations" presents three melodicas in combination with bass clarinet, violin, cello, and electronics - an unusual, effective combination of timbres.

This music is minimalistic in respect to several instances of repetitive rhythmic patterns, yet more melodic and, at times, harshly dissonant than purists in that genre. The extended techniques required of the performers of Wohl's work are well executed throughout by members of Transit and Sō Percussion; the virtuosic, rapid passages in "Ouverture" and "Plus ou moins" deserve special mention. A minor detraction, the intonation of the strings in "Cantus" is disappointing, especially given the profound contrast in mood provided by Wohl's more traditional use of western counterpoint, rife with suspension passages; it should be noted, however, that owing to the experimentalism of the entire album, this aspect of tuning may be very intentional, simply a further means of provocative expression.

Fevered Dreams

For me, Daniel Wohl's music lands somewhere between classical and ambient. And those are two musical worlds that seldom connect. The building blocks of the soundscapes Wohl creates in Corps Exquis are common to ambient and trance, but the way he uses them is more classical in structure. This isn't just stringing together cool-sounding samples in a studio to create a mood. Rather, this is (to my ears) carefully constructed music that has some substance and depth to it.

Plus ou moins, the longest work on the album, is a good example of this. The piano ostinato that gradually morphs sounds minimalist in inspiration, but the darting clarinet/glockenspiel figure doesn't. Scraping strings and electronic sound samples give the work an ambient feel, but careful listening reveals the subtle interplay between the voices. Lines influence each other in sort of a contrarian counterpoint, tying together what at first blush appears random.

Daniel Wohl has a unique compositional voice. Repeated listening helped me appreciate the artistry of that voice. Corps Exquis may sometimes evoke strange, dreamlike images, but there's purpose behind those fever dreams.

Corps Exquis, Daniel Wohl
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Classical, Music
  • Released: Jun 04, 2013

Customer Ratings