Electronic music stands separate from much of the history of Western music insofar as it's an art form that is explicitly designed for recording; jazz, rock and even classical music depend on the performance of a work for its flavor, and a recording is an afterthought, added after the fact to make a salable product. Electronic music, on the other hand, has no such meet-space analogue; the recording IS the performance, and each blip and beep, each characteristic of the sound is defined by the recording, instead of by a given performance.
This is what makes Acoustica interesting. It represents an attempt to take music that has no equivalent in the world of instrumental performance, music that exists as bits and bits alone, and translate no, transliterate that music into a live performance piece. So we have a 22-piece orchestra, including woodwinds, brass, strings and four drummers, faithfully interpreting the works of electronic golden boy Aphex Twin. No small undertaking, but Alarm Will Sound definitely has the chops.
The track list mostly sticks with tracks from the Drukqs album, though a few pieces from other releases sneak in as well. Most impressive are those tracks that were originally most frenetic, such as "Meltphace 6" and "Mt. Saint Michel." The work necessary to produce arrangements for such pieces boggles the mind. Where in the original pieces there are sounds that are purely synthetic, Alarm Will Sound makes interesting approximations: A piccolo substitutes for a high-pitched, filtered sine synth, for instance. The more ambient pieces, such as "Cliffs," seem more at home with this instrumentation, and indeed some, like "Blue Calx," seem to be improved by the addition of humanized variation in tone.
As a final touch, the album includes two remixes as the final tracks electronic remixes of the acoustic versions of the originally digital Aphex Twin songs an excellent meta-level upon which to close a very "meta" kind of album.
Aphex Twin fans will find this album intriguing, as will serious music students and those interested in contemporary classical music; casual listeners might find the sound too subtle. A live performance of the work is scheduled July 24 in New York as part of the Lincoln Center Festival 2005 (perhaps marking the beginning of a tour). Acoustica was designed to bring electronic compositions out of the computer and into the "real" world, and it's almost a shame to banish such a work back to the cold, digital realm of recorded media. This is a work that wants to breathe real air in front of a real audience.