Music Reviews
The Missing Symphony

V/Vm & Dimitri Shostakovich The Missing Symphony

(V/Vm Test Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 5/10

They've tampered with Joy Division, poked fun at Aphex Twin, and even scored an NME single of week with a Chris De Burgh remix, but in terms of sheer ambition, V/Vm's latest project eclipses every single one of these. (Well, maybe not the last one, but as that was a rather exceptional achievement, we'll let it pass.)

Even from a band who've made genre hopping the trademark of their career, a classical release comes as something of a surprise. And that's pretty much what The Missing Symphony is. There's no additional instrumentation, no distortion or conscious manipulation of the original sounds - the whole album was created purely by overlaying the fifteen symphonies of Dimitri Shostakovich. Granted, the volume of each symphony was significantly reduced (to avoid distortion), and they were all stretched/compressed to the same length (2842 seconds - the mean value), but that's all that was done. As V/Vm chose not to tamper with the finished product - nor did they listen to it during its creation - the resulting piece of music could, in theory, be replicated by anyone in possession of a laptop, some basic software, and a reasonable stack of patience. And that's the beauty of it.

Of course, artistically The Missing Symphony is a masterstroke - the cold, calculated meeting of digital technology and classical composition - but in taking such an admirably pure approach to an undeniably great idea, V/Vm have ultimately shot themselves in the foot. Where as brief fragments of the music are mind-blowingly brilliant, others are merely muddy and tedious. It's no surprise that the album misses the target more often as it hits it, and while the chaotic pace of the proceedings is exciting at first, it soon becomes a bore.

After ten minutes of dwindling hope, it soon becomes obvious that The Missing Symphony is far too inconsistent on a musical level to succeed. Because of its pure, unflinching reliance on chance alone, the end product of this wonderful experiment quite simply never stood a chance of doing justice to the concept. It's a shame, of course, but I'm sure this minor failure won't deter the twisted minds behind V/Vm from bouncing back with more strange ideas, and perhaps a more unlikely guinea pig than Dimitri Shostakovich.