Paul Williams: China
By Bruce Morley
In this follow-up to 'Beyond Here', Williams further refines his combination of improvised cello, electronics, effects, loops, and voice and found-sound samples (mostly airshots, such as Mayor Daley's speech after the Chicago riots of 1968). Dubbing his whole concept "cellotronics" (and including, this time around, a few guitar-tronics), Williams builds seamless soundscapes from the ground up so successfully that it's easy to lose sight of the fact that they are largely improvised. Also that what may sound like a sound effect is probably cello-generated. The overall tone is ominous and brooding, sometimes almost apocalyptic, particularly on Humachine, where sounds of distant thunder can also be interpreted as the rumble of war, and Do Birds Feel Sorry For Us!, where a non-stop chirping battles with, and finally outlasts, all the other sounds that Williams throws at it. After all this, it's difficult to decide whether the brief final track Tribalescence is optimistic or atavistic. The occasional voice dubs hint at a connecting narrative, which links the album into a cohesive whole and suggests that Williams's disquieting soundscapes contain both sound and message. This is a very serious album.