If anything should speak to the importance of Laurie Spiegel’s work, other than the work itself, it’s that it is hurtling through the cosmos upon the golden record placed aboard the Voyager spacecraft. The endless demesne of space is a fitting domain for the expansive work that Spiegel creates.
The aptly titled The Expanding Universe is a vital reissue of Spiegel’s work. It provides ample evidence as to her importance as a pioneer of electronic music. Her songs display a melodic and emotional dynamism that is as captivating as it is a testament to her talent as a composer. While the pieces that comprise The Expanding Universe all maintain a foundation of compositional and tonal delicacy, they are nevertheless able to traverse a broad emotional spectrum, the breadth of which is simply astounding.
Take for instance ‘Patchwork’, which expresses a playful exuberance and an almost childlike excitement one imagines Spiegel felt while crafting these works. There is the contemplative solemnity of ‘Old Wave’, evoking the slow drift of a dying leaf as it travels from branch to ground. The quiet introspection of ‘The Unquestioned Answer’ hints at amaranthine dawns and waking dreamers. ‘East River Dawn’ sparkles like the scintillant reflection of sun upon surf. This is truly beautiful music.
Spiegel’s work stands out from much of what has descended from and been influenced by her through its metamorphic qualities. Hers are pieces that fluctuate and flow, flux and breathe. There are serpentine bends and twists to these songs rather than the ouroboros of layered loops that comprise much of present day electronic composition. It’s refreshing and a bit disheartening at the same time. While many have been influenced by Spiegel’s tonal and melodic qualities, perhaps more should pay attention to the dynamism of her compositions as well. The Expanding Universe is as vital a release as I have encountered this year. It isn’t often one finds music as transcendent as this, music that truly takes you on a journey, like a solitary spacecraft’s endless travels through a ceaseless sea of stygian beauty.- Beach Coma