Saturday, January 13, 2007

Igor Wakhevitch - (almost) Full Discography (6 LP's From The "Donc..." 6 CD Boxset LTD Reissue)

Igor Wakhevitch studies the piano under the guidance of the composer Olivier Messiaen. He spent a short period at the GRM of Pierre Scheaffer in 1968. He discovered Maurice Bejart, met Pink Floyd and Soft Machine, worked with Terry Riley and composed the music of the Opera-Poem by Salvador Dali "Etre Dieu" in 1974.
LOGOS (rituel sonore) - 1970

Debut album by one of the most revered of the avant-garde electronic artists of the 1970s. As original LPs, Wakhevitch’s albums are near impossible to find (especially the early ones). Fortunately there exists a 6 CD box, titled “Donc…” containing the majority of his work, though I suspect that this too will one day be a rarity. “Logos”, from 1970, is closer in spirit to modern classical, in the genre of “serious” electronic music, with extensive use of eerie choirs, machines, violins and percussion (which can get intense in that Pink Floyd ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ way). All of this dark seriousness leads to the album’s climax, the brilliant seven minute ‘Danse Sacral’, as performed by the French psych band Triangle. On it’s own, the rock instrumental song is pretty average, but in this context the impact is severe and engaging. Igor, what an enfant terrible . One can just see Wakhevitch at a party near the Sorbonne, with red scarf wrapped around neck, joined by Pierre Henry, Terry Riley, Ralph Lundsten and other avant composers of the day, martinis in hand, gorgeous girls in black and white modernist dresses, heavy mascara de rigueur . Makes one want to dump a can of paint on the canvas and call it “Le Bleu”. Time to eat - Croque Monsieur anyone?

On Docteur Faust you will hear a very eclectic approach to music. Strange electronic effects, choir-like vocal arrangements, snippets of orchestral music, and rock music are combined with fragments of musique-concrete like the voice of (most likely) the pope, and on top the sound of a whip, a spoken voice reciting over weird electronic sounds, gun fire, a neighing horse, etc. A strange, but fascinating album.
HATHOR (lithurgie du souffle pour la rιsurrection des morts) 1973 
LES FOUS D'OR - 1975

NAGUAL (les ailes de la perception) - 1977 
LET'S START - 1979
Letter from Michael GIRA (Swans) - November 10, 1998 :
The most astonishing music I have heard in some years is the new Box Set of Igor Wakhιvitch - 6 CDs, from 1970-79. Amazing approach to sound, from classical to experimental, psychadelia to film music. Ominous and beautiful, then clamorous and Wagnerian. At some points it sounds like contemporary electronic music, then shifts seemlessly into a full classical orchestra. You must buy this.

Audion - n°40 (page 7-8) - August 1998 (UK) :
Donc... innovation !An unclassifiable talent, Igor Wakhιvitch could be seen as the French equivalent of someone like Ralph Lundsten, or an explorer like Franco Battiato, a pionner who proliferated in the 70’s with a series of highly original and unusual albums.
Igor Wakhιvitch’s roots are obscure , though his name implies he is obviously of Russian ancestry, and apparently his father was a celebrated theatre set-designer. It was obviously in the setting of the theatre that Igor Wakhιvitch saw new potentials in music. He was something of a genius as a young musician. By the age of 17 he had already won the first prize for piano at the Superior Conservatoire in Paris. But, not content to stay in the classical world, he moved on. His academic qualifications served him well. In 1968 he was working at the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (then directed by Pierre Schaeffer) with access to some of the most advanced studio equipment around. There he learnt his craft as a sound designer, as a master of studio trickery and musique-concrete techniques. The perfect foil for his own musical talents, and as a way to play with the possibilities of sound and other musical forms. This fertile environment, at studios that were regularly visited and/or used by the likes of Pierre Henry, Franηois Bayle, Bernard Parmegiani, et al, was the ideal springboard for the creation of a new form of music.Pierre Henry had already become celebrated for his works combining rock and electronics in the early part of the 60’s, and particularly his music for the avant-garde ballets of Maurice Bιjart. Igor Wakhιvitch saw this as his oeuvre, being fascinated by the new forms of psychedelic rock that were making shock-waves in France. With the moniker "Ballet for the 21st Century" he worked with Bιjart in an attempt to turn this underground pop culture into high art. Inspiration came from Soft Machine and Pink Floyd, and in fact Igor Wakhιvitch worked quite extensively with Robert Wyatt and Soft Machine for a while.At this time, Igor Wakhιvitch also worked together with Terry Riley learning special tricks about tape delays and looping techniques. All this experience melted into the pot of what became a unique music, with a focus that lay in processing instruments, usually in a melodic framework, blending in rock and diverse classical forms, bringing different unlikely musics together, often in most perplexingly odd ways. Igor Wakhιvitch thus became established at Pathι Marconi Studios and also did production work for other studios and labels, and as a result got in touch with the French up-and-coming home-grown rock scene. The seeds were set for a radical and unique new form of music.
- LogosWith such a background, and a concept based on Greek legend, Logos "Rituel Sonore" amounted to a revolutionary creation for a 1970 release. Even if you know works like Pierre Henry’s The Green Queen, which was weirdly comprised of rock and avant-garde musics fused together, you’ll still be in for a surprise. Here we have a soprano singer, strange orchestral textures and percussives (drums, cymbals, gongs, etc.) blended with effects and processing. As the ominous percussion sets off with drum-rolls and ritualistic tension, the mood is of a looming anticipation of what is to come. here we go through phases of weird swirling effects, vivid reverb and atmosphere. The tension becomes overpowering, yet we are led on. Here we have the key to Igir Wakhιvitch’s sound, in a tension that becomes awe-inspiring.The climax of the whole opus comes with "Danse Sacrale" , an extraordinary psychedelic instrumental performed by Triangle (one of the earliest French psychedelic bands) that has to be heard to be believed. A great band in their early days, this goes to prove that Triangle were not just Pink Floyd cum Traffic copyists. This all amounts to a unique fusing of psychedelia and the avant-garde, and an awesome experience !
- Docteur FaustThis is the most obscure album of the lot. I’d never hit it before this release. Aptly in tune with the title, it is also one of the strangest. Docteur Faust was created for a festival in Avignon, and was later choreographed. Though, the mind boggles as to how anyone could dance to this. "Full of fury and energy" to quote a reviewer at the Avignon festival, it certainly is !On one hands this is a more balanced blending of classical and dramatic musics, yet also it is much more extreme. There’s a wealth of sonic collage, dense musique-concrete, and bizarre musics that collide and fragment against rock structures. There’s also moments of pure classical avant-garde moving into ensemble pieces feeling like Henze meets Ligeti or Xenakis. The use of electronics is really vivid too. There are no rules or boundaries in what makes up a Wakhιvitch composition ! The rock elements return throughout this album and, although not credited, I would guess that again Triangle members are featured. The guitar reminds of Alain Renaud, and percussion is quite distinctive, backed-up with weirdly treated organ. Although a short album, it is so engrossing and weird that it would be too-much if it were much longer.
- HathorDating from 1973, shortly after working with Terry Riley on his Happy Ending soundtrack,there’s an obvious big advance in Hathor "Lithurgie du Souffle Pour la Rιsurrection des Morts", with greater use of keyboards, synthesizers, and looping techniques. But Hathor is no mere synth album, far from it, but is Igor Wakhιvitch’s most powerful opus. Making use of the Paris Opera choir (no-less), along with weirdly processed vocals, his usual off-the-wall electronics, and even drum/sequencer drives unprecedented in any form of music before this. It’s another sonic roller-coaster ride, in which we experience an ominous bellowing God-like voice heralding something visionary.As with his previous albums, Hathor contains a number of separate tracks that continue or segue from each other, amounting to what feels like one work. Here, we have surging electronic and percussion drives, a climax sparked off by lightning, thunder-crashes, a wealth of weird contorted voices, and much much more. Here tension gives way to intense power resulting in a kind of dark Vangelis - on the edge ! With a weird Gothic choral number and another electronic rock opus to follow Hathor really flies ! Only the closing coda offers relief, with a reflection on obvious Terry Riley influences, and hinting at the albums to come.
- Les Fous d’OrThis is quite simply, the weirdest of the batch ! Scored for ballets by the much celebrated avant-garde choreographer Carolyn Carlson. A big step away from rock, this &ηθ( album is the challenching start to the second phase of Igor Wakhιvitch’s career. A very avant-garde opera in parts, starting with a warbling soprano and cello, you’d never guess where this album is going to take you. Synthesizers (in looping patterns) take us close to the feel of Ralph Lundsten at this time, which is not so surprising as Ralph Lundsten had also worked with Carolyn Carlson. Tape collage is also used extensively, along with ritualistic horns (sounds like Jac Berrocal), waves of sonic slurry, and a total disregard for conventional musical continuity. Admittedly, it took a long while to really get into this one !
- NagualAlthough a concept in its own right, Nagual "Les Ailes de la Perception" (from 1977) again features music for a Carolyn Carlson ballet. Arguably, it’s the closest to Ralph Lundsten, as a largely cosmic work, with looping synthesizer patterns, putting melody against dissonance, moving on from the darker edge of the "new-age". The format is different to all the previous albums, in that this has 12 tracks (ranging from 30 seconds to 8 minutes) and features musics unheard of within the Wakhιvitch oeuvre before, like piano works of a weirdly construed type (reminding of Ron Geesin) and what feels like a bizarre Celtic jig amongst them. The mood is generally mysterious and enigmatic, largely based around cycling patterns of keyboards and other instruments. The range is very diverse and surprising. But, having said that, typically Wakhιvitch it is - as an uneasy balance that’s engrossing - still so enigmatic and fresh !
- Let's StartThis final album, from 1979, was created for the Batsheva Dance Company (for the festival of Jerusalem), and musically is the sum of many ideas from the two albums before, but in a more atmospheric framework. The grand opus here, the 21 minute "Let’s Start" itself, is a treat for those into the pioneering works of Terry Riley and Steve Reich in that this combines use of delay lines on keyboards a-la Riley with phasing techniques on voices first explored by Reich. Not really systems music though, as the development of the work is not predictable, even the ending is a surprise where confused phrases organise themselves into a logical sentence ! Extremely clever, indeed ! The remaining works are Igor Wakhιvitch at his most restrained and subdued, largely synth/keyboard based, and feel more like a hybrid of Deuter and peter Michael Hamel, with a very film soundtrack type of feel.
As far as I gather Igor Wakhιvitch sees Let’s Start as a return full circle to his roots, though such a progression or connection is hardly logical. There are characteristics and stylisms that one picks up on in Igor Wakhιvitch music, but they are very hard to pin-down. Though I had heard rumour of other works, this seems to be his entire published oeuvre. It all amounts to a bizarre and fascinating trip with one of the true revolutionaries in new-music, and a definitive set collecting it all together. The set is presented in a small red box, including a poster (with the album sleeves) and a 24 page booklet (in French, with a number of pictures), along with the 6 individually sleeved CD’s. The original Igor Wakhιvitch LP releases, despite being on major labels like EMI and Atlantic, are nowadays all pretty rare and collectable (most are reputedly worth £30+, with Docteur Faust reckoned to be worth £100). Alan FREEMAN.


john said...

Dr. Faust is a great album, what a nice surprise! It seems Logos is no longer up, could you re-post it please?

mutantsounds said...

it is....checking it now!

Nuage fiché qui rêve said...

Wowowow... ! What a wonderful boxset ; I hope the links are still valid. Thank you so much MutantSound

Anonymous said...

Discovered your site recently and I'm still yet addicted.
Really loved "Logos" and its Ligeti's flavor.
I hope older archives won't vanish with Eve's day...
Need this kind of GEMS to cure my ears.
Nice work, lots of worldwide Informations,
- A great place - - Thanks, "Doktor" MUTANT SOUNDS -

Anonymous said...

wow: i've hit the musical lottery with this post; i can hardly believe my ears! thank you, thank you!

Ecstatic Peace! said...

$215 in Ebay:

And Weirdo records sold a used copy a few days ago, $150.

Fractal Records has that release sold out.

Vaykorus said...

Brilliant blog.. Thanks, thanks, thanks..

Unknown said...

i discoverded the Wakhévitch universe one year ago and i was lucky enough to find a "docteur faust" copy last week !!
this is my favorite album of his work.

you probably don't care about my post only talking about a lucky man so even if it is not much, here is what you can read on the back cover..

"docteur faust" est la musique du ballet de Norbert Schmucki.
d'après un argument original de Jacques Breyer.
création mondiale au festival d'Avignon 1971
Dédicace : à mes grands amis Robert Wyatt et Mick Ratledge, à Laurent Huet et à Gilles et Nicole Lachaud

brian h said...

thanks once more for this big amazing thing!

Anonymous said...

thanx from urkenny » Blog Archive » Trackback said...

[...] Donc, Fractal Records’ 5-CD box set, contains Wakhevitch’s first six albums: Logos (1970), Docteur Faust (1971), Hathor (1974), Les Fous d’Or (1975), Nagual (1977), and Let’s Start (1979). [...]

Anonymous said...

Igor Wakhévitch - "Donc... (1970-79)" in LOSSLESS format.

Pedro said...

I already found quite some amazing stuff in your blog, thanks a million for making my life more interesting. I wish I could find some of this rarities you look for, but I guess being from the ass of Europe won't be of much use. Oh well, thanks man, really.

Anonymous said...

Any chance of a re-up on the lossless. A thousand thank yous in advance. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

A re-up on the lossless would be extremely appreciated!


Rich AfterSabbath said...

Great post, thanks!

Anonymous said...

A re-up on the lossless would be extremely appreciated!


Roddus said...

What a brilliant set to kick off this great blog, Wakhevitch is brilliant, I really dig this set.

Anonymous said...

What can I say? ... THANKYOU!!! Wonderful, and precious and peculiar and special. Music's good too. ;)

Anonymous said...


The DL links are no longer active, can you re-upload it please?