Big City Orchestra - "Arc Of Infinity" (Harsh Reality 2000, HRC006, CDR, originally released on cassette 1987)
From Aural Innovations #13 (October 2000)
I'd never heard Big City Orchestra before, though a net search turned up an out of date web site that listed an enormous discography. There are lots of very interesting electronic passages here but many are screaming to be part of larger more fleshed out works. In fact, much of what I hear on this disc sounds like bits of what Vas Deferens Organization uses on their tunes.
The disc opens with "Brain And Brain", on which we hear harsh repetitive electronic patterns with intermittent samples of a child's voice yelling "Brain and brain, what is brain!". This sample sounds so familiar it's driving me crazy but to save my life I can't place it. "Chime Piece" is like a combination of toy instruments and a saw cutting drone. Simultaneously playful and harsh, I really liked the contrast between the two patterns. "Savages" features a similar combination of two contrasting themes. One a simple electronic drone; the other a handful of synth melodies that evolve much more than the previous tracks and keep moving throughout the piece. "Face Of Evil" is similar to "Chime Piece". We have abrupt pulsating electronics that pops in and out at various volumes and speeds, simple notes banged on what sounds like a toy piano, and simple synth melody lines. It's like an avant garde children's tune. Sort of like The Residents' Goosebump album.
For "Mind Robber", my favorite track, I had to turn the volume way up because I didn't think anything was playing. What we have is a collage of electronic patterns, various voice and other samples, and a general avant electronic atmosphere. I think I even hear some string instrument being bashed and plucked. Some of the voices are pretty disturbing. At one point we hear a blood curdling scream out of one channel and bum-bum-bum-bum Mr Sandman vocals from the other. Weird!! But pretty cool. The "Revolution #9" or "Careful With That Axe Eugene" of experimental electronica.
In summary, there are lots of good ideas on Arc Of Infinity and I think many fans of noisy drone electronica would dig this. So I may just be greedy in wanting to see Big City Orchestra flesh out these pieces a bit and add a bit of development to the music. Of course, with as many releases as they've got they may well have done that already.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz