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POP&JAZZ: Reviews

2K, Barbican Hall, London EC2 (0171-638 8891), 2 Sept

Pop & Jazz: Aphex Twin plays the Nia Centre, Manchester

Aphex Twin plays the Nia Centre, Manchester (0161-227 9254) on 7 Dec, 9pm-2am, pounds 10 adv/pounds 12 door

Classical: Steve Reich and Musicians Royal Festival Hall, London

Steve Reich's 60th birthday (today) was aptly celebrated on Monday when his own Musicians stopped off in London on a European tour. Performers worldwide have learnt a great deal in the past two decades about the cool passion necessary for the successful interpretation of such deceptively simple scores. But there's still nothing like the zeal and skill of Reich's long-serving percussionists, in particular. Bob Becker, Tim Ferchen, Russell Hartenberger - and the composer himself, who still makes occasional appearances - have matured together in some of this music for a quarter of a century; Garcy Kvistad has also been with the group for many years. Like all this team, they joyously, almost casually, make the near-impossible look easy.

Pop Albums: Harold Budd & Hector Zazou Glyph Made to Measure MTM 37

Like drum 'n' bass, ambient is a genre which relies on making a little go a very long way; the resultant glut of weedy minimalist pastiches barely bears a cursory listen for the most part, but this collaboration between Harold Budd and Hector Zazou demonstrates better than any recent offering how the spaces between the sounds can be made pregnant with possibility.

Classical Matrix St John's Smith Square

"Listening to umm-pah-pah, umm-pah-pah over and over again is intolerable and, indeed, a mistake," said Steve Reich in the context of an interview relating to The Desert Music. And yet Friday's performance by the BBC Singers and Matrix under Robert Ziegler realised little of the "lightness and constant ambiguity" that characterizes Reich's work. Granted that the ambient acoustic didn't exactly help: voices projected loud and clear, rhythms were prominent but the interweaving instrumental pulses blurred around the edges. Another problem was the manner of playing, especially among the violins, which employed an emphatic style that's more appropriate to Stravinsky than to Reich's loose-limbed counterpoint. The work dates from 1982 /1983 and marked a stylistic step forward from the purely minimalist pieces that had ghettoised young Reich in the eyes of a hardline avant-garde. It opens to a powerful rhythmic pulse that instigates a five-movement "arch", a musical palindrome with a sullen core and livelier outer sections. Reich's title is taken from a collection of poems by William Carlos Williams that concern the listening mind. However, Reich's way of dealing with the coexistent "sound" and "meaning" of words lacks focus: mobile, well-structured and texturally intricate though The Desert Music is, there's little suggestion of the colour and vitality that he re-claimed for Different Trains.

MUSIC Acis and Galatea, QEH, London

Nick Kimberley applauds the passing moments of drama in a musically poised account of Handel's pastoral masque

Ambient, techno... classical?

Radio 3 round-up

Techno's 'well weird' grandad

What do Karlheinz Stockhausen, Scanner and the Aphex Twin have in common? Dick Witts took Radio 3's Music Machine (and an hour of tapes) to Germany to find out

OBITUARY:Pierre Schaeffer

In the world of Pierre Schaeffer, experimentation and entertainment were synonymous; any division between the avant-garde and the everyday simply did not exist. Schaeffer was perhaps best known internationally as the inventor of musique concrete, among the most radical innovations of 20th-century music, but in France he was better loved as the originator of the Shadocks, a cartoon series still adored by every Gallic thirtysomething.

yes! Yes!! YES!!!

yes! Yes!! YES!!!

Biosphere plea

Aformer Biosphere 2 crew member accused of sabotaging the self-contained glass- and-steel dome says she broke windows and opened doors to 'flush' the air for the safety of the volunteers inside, AP reports from Oracle, Arizona.

Saturday Night: The techno ice-cream van is on its way

HE DOES NOT like it, the big-shot music journalist at the bar. In fact, he hates the idea of popular music minus pop stars. Stands to reason, really. The cult of personality is, quite literally, meat and drink to the rock hagiographer. So it comes as a swift kick in his ample, Armani-clad backside to learn that Warhol was wrong. The message is clear: we do not want your 15 minutes of fame, you can shove it.

Director's Cut: Enigma variations: Richard Stanley on the special effect of Tarkovsky's Mirror

A GIRL is sitting on a fence smoking a cigarette. She's out in the deep countryside, in a forest in Russia - her house is so far in the middle of nowhere that no-one ever turns off down the path. But then a doctor walks up to ask directions. He says he has lost the key to his black bag and asks for a file; and he remarks that she's not wearing a wedding ring and must be living alone. It's a strange, slow scene; he seems menacing and she gets very nervous. He sits down, rocking up and down as he talks, the fence collapses and they both fall over backwards into the flowerbed. And suddenly he becomes quite mournful, launching into this poetic spiel about whether plants have feelings. Then he notices the time, and has to rush off. As he leaves, she calls to him that he has a spot of blood on the back of his neck - it's a funny little moment of intimacy between them.

MUSIC / Hello, clouds: The Orb - Brixton Academy

ONE doesn't usually sit on the floor at the Brixton Academy. For the Orb, however, the sticky black slope that stretches from the bar to the stage was chocca with Lotus-eaters, happy-looking fans even more laid-back than the 'ambient' music they had come to hear. A level platform had been erected down the centre for those who wanted to dance, but since the first half hour passed off without bass or percussion being used rhythmically, the flanks looked like the best position. From there, you couldn't see the band, who lurked in the gloom amid stacks of black boxes and little lights, but you could see 'the visuals'.
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