Various Artists ~ The Exquisite Corpse

Let’s start with Leah Kardos’ “Little Phase”, from Bigo & Twigetti’s Summer compilation of last year. Press play ~ and then we’ll play a game.


The game is called the exquisite corpse.  Most of us played it with paper in primary school, as seen to the right.  I remember playing it during recess and later in detention.  But there’s a twist to this version: it’s played with music.  Using “Little Phase” as a starting point, the music was passed artist to artist through the rosters of Bigo & Twigetti and Moderna Records until it became something entirely different.  The process began last October and concluded this April.  Because the original files were available, the game was also influenced by another ~ telephone.  The last piece, Tim Linghas’ “At the End All Is Black”, bears echoes of the original, yet demonstrates how far the game has progressed.


So what happens in between?  Over the course of an hour, eleven artists (twelve if you count the duo) adopt what they wish to salvage or repeat in the work of the prior contributor.  As expected, the piano and strings continue to sound like Kardos in Madeleine Cocolas’ “Stalactite”, which comes across as a reinvention.  But as the markers are blurred or erased (like pencil lines, faded yet still discernible), the song begins to morph.  Put to rest any fears that listening to The Exquisite Corpse is like listening to a long remix album, because it’s a set of constant change.

New elements enter almost immediately ~ voice in the first, followed by Ed Carlsen’s peculating percussion in the second.  Tambour knocks the music back to modern classicism, adding a sense of sudden poignance.  One begins to realize the importance of tone in interpretation: more than just the notes, but the feeling embedded in the notes.  And oh, those bells!  The opening minute of Jim Perkins’ “Flutter” turns the proceedings decidedly dark (blame the cello!), but when the deep drums enter, the track becomes a battle between darkness and light, the final victor yet to be decided.  Lorenzo Masotto wrenches the piece in the direction of the sun ~ which is when an unexpected visitor appears.

Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma!  Yes, it’s Kardos herself, pressing reset, reeling it all in.  But instead of being horrified, she seems pleased, making only minor modifications, ending in static ~ a thread picked up by Mark Harris at the beginning of his elongated entry.  Holkham pushes things even further, adopting the ambience of Harris for a nearly nine minute extension.  Where is the original?  By now, it’s hard to tell.  When applied to the process, the title of Antonymes’ “Half Life” says it all.  The elements break down over time.  Jacob David and Thomas Haahr slowly spin down into a segment of quiet field recordings before Linghas brings it full circle ~ a cylinder instead of a straight line.  We can start again from here.  The corpse is exquisite, but very much alive.  (Richard Allen)


  1. Gfpizzle

    Outstanding review. Im here listening to the album and enjoying it’s sublime beauty but knowing the story behind how it was made makes it so much more magnificent.

    I can’t even tell they’re all remixes. Maybe with more rotations I can piece it together.

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