GENETIC DRIFT, a 17-piece collection from electronic music composer Joel Gressel, is among the latest releases from Ravello Records. The various tracks featured on the album were composed over the course of 20 years, each using the same set of sophisticated compositional rules to produce their unique sounds.
GENETIC DRIFT was created using a decades-old computer software that allows the composer to form a virtual “orchestra” of synthesizers, each “instrument” programmed with distinctive behaviors and timbral characteristics. Gressel’s compositions are inputed as code into the software, which is then manipulated according to complex mathematical operations churned out by the computer. There are no recorded instruments on the entire album—everything the listener hears comes from the mind of the machine, as ordained by Gressel’s programming. The music is as tantalizing and compelling as it is unsettling. Ethereal chimes, synthesized whistles, and warbling oscillators produce clouds of mind-bending tone clusters. Some of the pieces are rooted in concrete inspirations, like “The Final Approach,” which imagine scenes from the end of life. Other tracks on the album are wholly abstract artworks.
The immersive soundscapes featured on GENETIC DRIFT are remarkable both for their compositional ingenuity and the uniqueness of their medium. Intrinsic to their musicality and profound emotive power are the age-old hopes, quandaries, and fears, regarding humankind’s relationship with the machine.