Plus-Minus Ensemble

Plus-Minus Ensemble

Plus-Minus Ensemble is a London based ensemble committed to commissioning new work and placing it alongside recent and landmark modern repertoire. Formed in 2003, Plus-Minus is distinguished by its interest in performative, electroacoustic and conceptual pieces, and experimental open works such as Stockhausen‘s 1963 classic, from which the group takes its name. As of 2019 Plus-Minus has adopted a more collective model for running the group, with Mark Knoop, Vicky Wright and Matthew Shlomowitz acting as co-directors.

Plus-Minus has regularly performed in London at Kammer Klang (Cafe Oto) and City University; has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and Deutschlandfunk Kultur; and has played at the Borealis Festival Bergen, Cut and Splice, the Sampler Sèries at l’Auditori in Barcelona, Klang Festival Copenhagen, Fundación BBVA Bilbao, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, MaerzMusik, Spor Festival in Aarhus, Transit Festival Leuven and Ultima Festival Oslo.

Plus-Minus also works with student composers and has given workshops and concerts at Bath Spa University, City University London, Durham University, Guildhall School of Music, Huddersfield University, Stanford University and the University of Southampton.

Plus-Minus has worked with composers such as Peter Ablinger, Laurence Crane, Bernhard Lang, Cassandra Miller, James Saunders, Alexander Schubert and Jennifer Walshe.

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Plus-Minus Ensemble

The chamber works on this portrait album, the latest in our Debut Discs series, demonstrate Joanna Bailie’s distinct and powerful skill of mixing field recordings and other found audio material alongside partial transcriptions, which are played simultaneously on acoustic instruments. The effect is otherworldly and immersive.

In the three-part Symphony-Street-Souvenir Bailie pays homage to the Italian composer Aldo Clementi (1925-2011). She borrows and twists one of Clementi’s compositional techniques, and introduces some of his musical obsessions. ‘Symphony’ uses the opening of the C minor symphony of Brahms, one of Clementi’s favourite composers; ‘Street’, a Copenhagen carillon (with accompanying ambient street sounds); and ‘Souvenir’ a music box. Over these a mixed chamber ensemble interweaves subtle layers and slow glissandi.

Trains features fragments of music on solo cello over a textural bed of radically slowed down audio material. In Artificial Environments Nos. 1 to 5 you hear the composer’s voice, like a futuristic tour guide in a science fiction world with recorded sounds captured in locations around Europe – the hills of Umbria, Copenhagen, Malmö, London and Brussels and in Artificial Environments No. 8 the solo piano is paired with an urban soundscape, recorded whilst walking up and down a queue of tourists waiting to enter Notre Dame in Paris.


'Much of the greatness of this music lies in the care, indeed the almost tender way in which Bailie treats the sounds, creates musical situations to immerse oneself in, and at the same time establishes a connection to an outer listening space' Björn Gottstein, SWR

'There's ingenuity and a keen musical instinct here' Radio 3 Record Review

'This is a fascinating recording; Bailie's imagination knows few bounds.' BBC Music Magazine

'an energetic, if disconcerting, exercise in randomisation.' Electronic Sound

'Joanna Bailie delivers work that masterfuly collides field recordings, spoken word and old music recordings... a thoroughly beguiling collection of pieces' DownBeat

'invites us to reinterpret our relationship to the world through the art of sound' Neue Zeitschrift für Musik ★★★★★ 

'provocative, engaging, and accessible, the sort of music that invites not only the connoisseurs of European art music, but indeed every human to question, listen, and breathe' Tempo Magazine

Official Charts


Symphony-Street-Souvenir was commissioned by the Ives Ensemble in 2010. Artificial Environments Nos. 1 to 5 was commissioned by CESARE and L'instant Donne in 2011. Trains was written for the cellist Francesco Dillon, and Artificial Environment No.8 for Mark Knoop.

Thank you to the Trusts, Foundations and individuals who have invested in NMC’s Debut Discs series:

The John S Cohen Foundation
Nicholas and Judith Goodison’s Charitable Settlement
The Mercers’ Charitable Foundation

Stanley Picker Trust
The Steel Charitable Trust
Terry Holmes
Robert McFarland
James and Anne Rushton
Martin Staniforth
Judith Weir

The individuals who donated through NMC’s Debut Discs Appeal


Recorded at All Saints Church, East Finchley, London on 14-15 June 2018

DAVID LEFEBER Recording Engineer & Producer

Catalogue number:
NMC D252
Release Date:
27 September 2019