Lee Fraser
Dark Camber
CD (E164)

Dark Camber comprises four works composed between 2009
and 2012, using materials derived from a range of digital
synthesis techniques (augmented with some electroacoustic
treatments of concrète objects in a number of places to
achieve more complex sonorities). While the influence of
natural phenomena is often acknowledged in the behaviour
and organisation of these materials, the focus of each work
as a whole is on sound in the abstract — within an aesthetic/
formal context — where interest might be found in the play
of colours, dynamic contours and/or overarching structural

Lee Fraser is a composer whose work combines aspects
of acousmatic theory with the compositional methods of
computer music. He holds a PhD in electro-acoustic
composition from the University of Manchester, which
was supervised by David Berezan. He has also studied
composition under Frank Denyer and Denis Smalley.


See also

Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi

Edition of 200 copies
Out of print

“A truly brilliant debut release”

Illustration from Perspectiva Corporum Regularium
by Wenzel Jamnitzer, 1568


Debut albums don’t come much more impressive than
this. A former student of Denis Smalley, Lee Fraser is
a composer obviously concerned with the aesthetics of
acousmatic music. That suggests certain connotations
in terms of the relationship with sound sources, but
Fraser’s approach is to keep points of origin at bay; in
short, everything sounds electronic, either due to being
synthetic or subject to forms of processing sufficient to
remove traces of anything anecdotal. For Fraser, this
allusive yet ultimately non-associative sonic environ-
ment enables him to sculpt in such a way that the
results sound amazingly intuitive and spontaneous,
as though the sounds were happening without human

When reviewing this disc I singled out Thews and
Limbs for special praise, and it’s to the three parts
of this piece that I’ve returned most often. From an
incandescent band of scorching noise, the work passes
through undulating drones, metallic sparks, heavy
drum-like poundings, the barest hint of some voices,
and a glimmering Shepard tone-like pitch cluster
accreting dense material all around it. And that’s just
the first movement. To describe Fraser’s music is
almost to do it a disservice — in any case, adjectives
tend to fail when confronted by this level of imaginative
fervour — yet it is precisely this kind of music that
deserves going on about. At length. For one of the key
things about it, which distinguishes it from a great deal
of contemporary electronic music, is that beneath all
of the synthesis and the sculpture it has real emotive
depth; it isn’t dry, or clean, or remote—it’s present,
upfront and personal; it happens, and we really feel it.

Simon Cummings’ best albums of 2014

The simplest work heard here [is] Narrows (also the
earliest work on the disc, composed in 2009): metallic
pitches and a gentle granular texture placed side by
side, playfully morphing into each other. Fraser some-
times allows one element to dominate, as in the overt
pitch focus of Aerial Vapours, where a dreamy opening
leads to warm retro synth chords and upward-sliding
bands of harmony. They dissipate like sparks, dissolve
into pulsating bursts of froth and shimmer, but pitch is
omnipresent. The Visions of Ezekiel emerges, aspirated,
as from immense tubes or tunnels, leading to a series
of episodes full of vivid juxtapositions of opposites;
middle-grounded textures are overlaid with tart, squelch-
ing notes that move with the pained grace of an arthritic
acrobat. Texture takes over, a rippling surface moving
through empty wind into complex pointillistic chatter.
Drones wax and wane, and sometimes prevail, but the
juxtapositions are constant and superbly measured.
Dark Camber’s real showcase, though, is the three-part
work Thews and Limbs, completed in 2012. One of the
things that makes the work so outstanding is its willing-
ness to let go of restraint, ramping things up in terms
of both intensity and expressivity. The spontaneous
nature of Fraser’s material is intoxicating, a hyper-
complex narrative of ferocious twisting dissonance and
glades of refreshing consonance, reinforced by confined
spaces and juddering reverberation. Thews and Limbs
occupies a genuinely stunning soundworld, in which
the twin poles of noise and pitch become intertwined
and effortlessly pass back and forth between each other
such that timbral boundaries become meaningless.
Acoustic sounds are momentarily evoked — among
them voices, and an accordion — but it’s the way that
overtly synthetic sounds can so demonstrably emote
that’s most deeply impressive. Nowhere is this better
encapsulated than in the eruption that takes place a
minute into the final movement, the immense cry of
a myriad imaginary sonic souls. A truly brilliant debut
release, and easily one of the best albums of the year.

Simon Cummings at 5:4

Lee Fraser has studied with composer Denis Smalley,
among others, and his work is clearly coming out of
a similar acousmatic tradition. But he’s certainly not
wedded to genre or heritage — his confident, striking
Dark Camber debut infects electroacoustic textures
with an unusually open melodic sensibility and an
aggressive edge which brings to mind post-Mego
extreme computer music. The album’s centrepiece
is Thew And Limbs, a three part, 25 minute suite
which abrades gliding tones with serrated slivers and
locates connective threads between a series of
asynchronous clusters of swarming sound fragments.
Thereafter the relatively sedate Aerial Vapours
generates mutating cycles of delicate pitch-fraying
frequencies and modulated tonal waveforms. The
Book Of Ezekiel is more volatile, working colour-
ful flurries of sound particles into complex interstices
and vortices. All the pieces are impressively astute,
balancing a mature, architectural overview with
unexpected structural detours and risks.

Nick Cain in The Wire