If you’ve ever experienced the phenomenon when a distant siren takes on an enjoyably melodic quality, then “Russando” (2008) by Hallgrimur Vilhjálmsson is a must listen. When the sonic aggression of such sirens is diminished by space — that is, when civil-service sounds are rendered civil — what’s revealed is a taut melodic cycle, an inherently minimalist patterning that is immediately comparable to the compositional stuff of Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Those composers’s works echo in “Russando,” which Vilhjálmsson (who is from Iceland) describes as a “Serenade for six German Sirens” (MP3).
It helps, of course, that the sirens have that toy-like quality that European sirens often do, at least to an American ear, but even tone aside, Vilhjálmsson’s playful settings and use of stereo to exaggerate contrasts is highly pleasurable.
More information at ubu.com, where the audio is housed.