Archives for category: Musique concrete

blank_tape_positive.doc

Blank tape positive
RICHARD GARET
(Contour Editions 2013)

Review by David Vélez

I

from the liner notes:

‘Blank Tape Positive focuses on the modification of magnetic tape and playback machines as a substantial material for sonic sources. This exploration has been ongoing for many years in Richard Garet’s studio practice by applying extended techniques to magnetic tape and extensively deconstructing the physical playback object, with methods that not only manipulate the natural conditions of the machine, but also its constrained mechanisms. These approaches tackle the playback device as material in itself by turning it inside out, by decontextualizing it, and by mutating the capabilities of its functionality. In due course the magnetic tape is modified, the machine is also modified; subsequently nothing plays properly or does what it was built or designed to do.’

II

There is something about the physical manipulation of matter that allows for an artist to imprint his emotions into something irreversible, tangible and personal.

There is something poetic about the appropriation and reinterpretation of obsolete objects and devices that helps an artist to materialize his research and instrumental processes into something where he can genuinely project himself.

Today many of the sounds and images that are presented to us establish in some way a material and perceptual bridge to the past, they evoke memories that are loaded with extict experiences and dissapeared things.

Obsolescence gives to things the possibility to be reutilized while exploring unwanted and unnecessarily elements product of the shortcomings of dated technology.

Obsolescence also means imminent disappearance and today there seems to be a great praise of working with rare things of which they aren’t many left and this paradoxically occurs in an actual formal quest for the novelty…

On the late 80’s and early 90’s there was an obsession with the future, an obsession with the XXI century, an obsession with computers and software and the possibilities they offered…

…and now that we are there, that we are in the future, we are interested on things that we can find on junkyards, garage sales, pawnshops or antique shops…

In sound art the contemporary times can present a nostalgic approach, an interest in dated processes and media that when brought back acquire a complete new meaning.

The future is now the archeology of our memories.

III

The thoughts presented in the previous chapter came to my mind while listening to ‘Blank tape positive’ and reading its liner notes.

‘Blank tape positive’ illustrates in its final result this media and material exploration of the obsolete. The textures, the volumes, the reverberations, the rhythmic patterns…they present a nostalgic character that gives to this work a strong aesthetic value.

Here process and result go hand-in-hand as a way to achieve formal success. Here the exploration of history and archeology of media and the subsequent personal appropriation pays off, offering to the listener an incredible experience full of signification and profound emotional content.

But of course, there is substance behind the surface; on ‘Blank tape positive’ Garet also does a great job when it comes to construct emotional structures and formally work with tension and expectations, keeping the listener attentive and immersed throughout the entire release.

‘Blank tape positive’ joins ‘L’avenir’ and ‘Silver’ as the works of Garet that have left the bigger impression on me in terms of my sensible experience.

rgar

[Richard Garet; photo courtesy of Mandragoras Space]

Richard Garet website
Contour Editions website

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Strata. TARAB -Eamon Sprod-
(Unfathomless 2013)

Review by Caity Kerr

‘Strata’ is described as having been created from recordings made in a series of vacant lots and their immediate surrounds in the north-west of Melbourne.

The first thing that strikes the listener is the range of well-chosen sounds, all easy on the ear, nothing too harsh or unpleasant, no frequencies that strip the enamel off your teeth, no subs which threaten the cones on your precious speakers. In contrast with the locations used to gather the sounds, the overall impression is of a very ‘clean’ album, highly polished. The balance of dynamics, attention to pace and flow, all the orthodoxies of good composition, make the album almost classical in a compositional sense. Add to this various crossfading techniques with some well-crafted staggered dropouts and you have an effective tension between what I’d call thoroughly contemporary environmental sound gathering and a measured and conventional approach to putting the sounds together.

The sounds are easy enough to describe to the inner ear: a variety of recognisable or almost recognisable continuous sounds, some with lots of human agency, others resembling trains and the like, and occasionally sudden intrusions in the form of metallic timbres for example – one would imagine that these timbres are derived from objects found on site, activated for their rich sonic properties.

As with many other examples of this kind of work, the soundscape is visually evocative. Such work lends itself very well to the entertainment of audiences who like to relax, listen deeply and let the mind wander to the music. So the real question for me is how else can we hear this kind of music other than on cd? It’s fine to be able to relax in one’s domestic environment and to listen on one’s chosen equipment, but I’ve always thought that the potential strength of this kind of work, apart from pleasing the ears if it’s good work, is to be found in the possibilities for uplifting and even edifying in a social listening context, situations where people can discuss and share impressions after the listening event. Certainly not the concert hall or the grungy club (so I’m already going against the grain by asking for something which isn’t so fashionable but is eminently human and probably timeless), something approaching an appropriate and rewarding listening environment. I think we need to be asking where and under which conditions we should be looking to improve the opportunities for composers of this kind of work, composers who offer well-crafted good new non-instrumental, non-genre or trend-driven music of this era.

tarab

Eamon Sprod website
Unfathomless website

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Solace. BILL THOMPSON
(self release 2012)

Review by Caity Kerr

Bill Thompson’s work is wide-ranging and largely experimental. He should be described as a statement artist, which means that he’s capable of appropriating an idiom or genre, or elements from within one, and making a very unique statement of his own within those resources. As a committed Cageian he works with all sorts of material, instrumental, electronic, environmental, found, lost, unwanted, often investigating intermedia-based process-driven projects in the live environment, improvising or composing as required rather than on principle. His work manifests versatility and flexibility. After so much project and deadline-based work which he does regularly and which makes it difficult to get along and see or hear, it’s good to have a studio album to catch up with.

Solace is sectional and as such is formally transparent. The opening is ambient in flavour, an electronically generated pad (according to the artist the equipment did most of the work) layered with field recordings of environmental sound. This crossfades slowly into an 11 minute passage, typical, to my ears, of his solo live work – a powerful mesmerising electronic timbre, modulating slowly, made of clearly defined partials, though again shifting around the spectrum, well equalised, polyrhythmic.

Without quoting directly from our correspondence on the work, it was pointed out that the opening section was overtly ‘musical’ in a characteristically ambient way, and that there’s a very personal but private narrative embedded in the work. The structural use of long sections of silence was commented upon as being unusual in his work.

The middle section is a straightforward field recording of someone walking through something crunchy, most likely the artist unless some poor bystander was collared and coerced into carring a recording device through a scrapyard. You never know.

There follows a period of relative stasis – a simple low amplitude electronic timbre, like a good fm synthesised waveform. Two minutes or so of silence leads next to a more hostile transitional passage, then further on a crescendo, another massive pulsating section but with substantial dollops of grit and noise in the signal and a nod to the pulse of early techno synth pads.

What I think works in this piece is the contrast and the clear division between the field recordings and the electronic music. You don’t get bored as you can look forward to the next contrasting section – there’s not too much of one thing or the other – it’s very well balanced. I think this is a fruitful area of investigation for artists who want to make field recordings more interesting. Finally the concept of a personal narrative acts as the perfect container for such a remarkable project.

SOLACE was first performed in 2012 for the AMODA Performance
Series in Austin, Texas. It was subsequently reworked and mastered
at the Firehouse Studios in London and Studio 4 in Norwich, UK.

46677

[Bill Thompson]

Bill Thompson website

Blowhole2 copy$

2013: The year in retrospective. Part I -TESSA ELIEFF-

Text, images and sound by Tessa Elieff

Download ‘Caris Clocks’ by TESSA EILEFF

Download ‘Craster Blowhole’ by TESSA EILEFF

Recording excursion snapshot: Sound gathering on England’s North East coastline.

In early November of 2013 I found myself in the town of Alnwick, north Northumberland, England. After finishing a week intensive with Chris Watson – rather than moving on to the next opportunity – I had decided to stay in the area and give myself more time to understand its community and discover its unique sounds. Time is a luxury – particularly when travelling and it’s only too easy to miss the experience that lies around you in order to jump ahead into the future potential. I didn’t want this to be such an instance and so, at the time where the tourist attractions close down for the year, their subsequent crowds filter out of the townships and the wintering wildlife filters in, I settled in the market town of Alnwick.

Blowhole

Preparation:

Weatherproof clothing was a must. I do in fact own a few beanies and big jackets but nothing that would actually keep you warm – living in Australia – there are very few occasions when you would need it. While it was not quite Winter in England, the morning frost had arrived along with typical coastline weather of wind, rain and hail. Keeping your fingers warm as you monitor a recording device and fitting your headphones over a beanie can be the deciding factors as to weather or not you are able to persevere the elements and collect that one recording….

Clothing for this trip included

1) Thermal tops and bottoms (@ the heaviest weight)

2) Thick socks

3) Water resistant bushwalking boots. These were not waterproof but still did the job and were much needed when clambering over the slippery stones and volcanic rocks to be found on the coastline. Sneakers (no matter how sturdy) would not have sufficed!

4) Fingerless gloves (for warmer days)

5) Whole gloves – touch screen sensitive

6) Beanie: Thick enough to keep you warm and sleek enough to accommodate headphones

7) Pants: Wind/waterproof and lined for the cold. It’s worth mentioning that ‘ladies’ pants are not as practical as the ‘men’s’. Their waistlines are lower (don’t keep you as warm) and the cut more fitted (restricts your movements and pocket potential!)

8) Coat: Down to the knee and up to the chin. Downer lined with weatherproof shell and hood.

Specific townships along the North East coastline where I recorded include Craster, Boulmer and Newton-by-the-Sea.  The nature of these places required equipment such as their tide tables and explorer maps as GPS and phone signal often disappears and their tides remain master of shore access. RE: the maps – I’d recommend a scale of 1:25 000 (4cm to 1km), which typically is used for walking and the level of detail is ideal for exploring the areas by foot and car. The tide tables are essential for ensuring your safety – particularly as the coastline is dotted with volcanic stone formations that appear and disappear along with the changing tides. It’s very easy to lose yourself in recording only to look up half an hour later and find yourself marooned. I also found that knowing when the tides would be shifting helped inform me of the best times to explore specifically, blowholes and rock pools.

Caris Clocks2 copy

The final recording collection includes sounds of the township and of it’s surrounding natural environment. The most dominant contributor would be the ocean itself. There was not a single day that I visited the shoreline to hear the same sounds – even if the weather was much identical – the ocean’s voice was completely different. It was a pleasure and a torment – so much to capture but never able to capture it all! I was torn between using spaced omni microphones to gather the complete soundscape, or paired cardioid’s to illustrate the beautiful movements between left and right extremities – between a hyper cardioid to focus on a single point species and on contact microphones – to unearth the rumble running through a surface. If I could have recorded each select moment with all of the above I would have undoubtedly done so – but these are the creative decisions we make as a Field Recordist are they not?

Caris Clocks copy

On return to Australia I am haunted by my usual thoughts of sounds I did not think to capture at the time – or could have perhaps – made that extra effort to gather. None-the-less, as I work through what I did collect, I am transported back to Alnwick and enjoy the sounds of such a place, from far-away Australia. Here’s a snippet. Enjoy.

Untitled-1

[Tessa Elieff]

Tessa Elieff website

pali

Offset. PALI MEURSAULT
(Doubtful Sounds 2013)

Review by David Vélez

From the liner notes

This work is the result of a research about the mechanical sounds of printing machines. I was invited in two different printing workshops in Grenoble and Paris, where I’ve been listening and recording their rotary presses very closely. ‘Offset’ gathers a series of compositions created with this sound matter, electroacoustic variations exploring the rhythms, cycles, textures and musicality of the machines. A work that stands on the ambivalence between the alienating and the musical machine, and careful to lose any assumption…

___________________

‘Offset’ is composed by eight individual pieces.

On ‘Cycle 1′ the rhythmic patterns are random and complex drawing to a somber emotion. They sound like desynchronized machines that sometimes match and interact with harsh colorless grace.

On ‘Cycle 2′ the textures vary from more wood-like to metallic-like.  Also the relations created by the different magnitudes of the occurring events maintain a tension between the more soothing moments and the more overwhelming moments.

‘Cycle 3′ is a piece of ‘epic’ narratives and emotional tensions that stretches and breaks up the moments. To me this piece is one of the highlights of the whole release, conscious and successfully built.

Sometimes ‘Cycle 4′ sounds like jungle or break-core music; a short fun to listen and an easy to get by piece.

‘Cycle 5′ is a recording-based evolution of something similar to what avant-garde electronic acts like Autechre and Phonem were trying to do in terms of rhythm thirteen years ago. Syncopated rhythmic mechanical repetitions that go on strongly with no pause. Through the end the pulse become harsher, louder and chaotic.

‘Flux 1′ is another piece of this release that I find special; here the rhythmic patterns become more ‘harmonic’ and the background and foreground forcefully merge in a very fortunate way; this is the more atmospheric and environmental piece of the release.

‘#’ is a strange piece very quiet and sine wave-like that sort of breaks the release structure.

‘Offset’ goes out on a high note with ‘Flux 2′. Here the exploration of rhythm is open to the point we wonder how much manipulation of the recordings was done in terms of pitch and speed. The piece’s narrative structure goes from joyful to somber creating a beautiful lasting tension.

To close this review I would like to say that ‘Offset’ presents a fortunate, risky and refreshing approach to the compositional work with field recordings. The relation that Meursault established with the subject and the formal approach he gave to it produced a very successful and rewarding work.

pamer

[Pali Meursault]

Pali Meursault website
Doubtful sounds webwsite

harris

Wasted five years. JACK HARRIS, SAMUEL RODGERS

AMALIA

Kona kai. YPARXEI PROVLIMA AMALIA

Reviews by Patrick Farmer

The two newest releases on the Organised Music from Thessolaniki label, that aren’t actually that new anymore, but new enough.

My apologies, to Kostis and the artists involved, for the delay in my writing. So much has happened, so much that doesn’t feel at home in a ‘review’, but how many people really think I review things anyway? Do I even think I do? A review, really, shouldn’t be a place to speak about oneself, I’m sure, but then I’m probably not one to review, though I’ll try in a bit. These two tapes have been released on a label that I can’t extract from the proceedings, the proceedings being the review, but as I said, the label, Organised music from Thessaloniki, has published some of my work, and I indeed, not wishing to sound too much like Richard Pinnell, know the label owner very well. He’s a lovely old boy if ever there was one. And so what do I write about?

The tapes! Please, the tapes! I shouldn’t write about how my window has been open all night, how I haven’t eaten anything this morning, how I’ve only drank strong black coffee and thus am typing things, like this, that I possibly wouldn’t usually merit as worth anybody’s while. And yes, I’m going to mention birds, as I can hear them, and I’m always thinking about them. Great tits and goldfinches, the latter giving me much pleasure, being as they were so close to extinction, and now, well, aren’t. I’m going to build a bird table soon, and fill it with nigella seeds. But then, I can also hear, I had to look to confirm, a few private planes in the sky, which give me equal amounts of pleasure. Though it used to be that they made me so angry, but who can live like that and still experience the world in ways where thoughts can be drawn up that can then commingle with others in ways that don’t leave your eyes red and your mouth sore? Thoughts and patience are a good sound.

Why am I writing about this? Is it because I’m unable to vacate my hyperbolically apparent and dank solipsism? If that were true why would I think there were anything to vacate? Unless I were somewhat of a realist in my spare time… Is there any compassion here? I think so, oodles, but who knows really. Or perhaps I’m writing like this because both tapes in some way or another utilise field recordings, or is it material? Either or there’s lots of it! Both. Thematically at least two decades worth condensed into two tapes. They deal with sounds in ways which seek to document what happens not when they’re recorded, but when they’re played back. And so why would I then want to saddle that laboured horse and document those self same sounds again to you in words that don’t speak of anything but a tired imprint that’s so fed up of having to speak? Why not speak of them, or the process, in ways in which hearing the processes unfurl from the magnetised tape that has just finished with a click mirror the ways in which I receive and am now emitting, just like they were a minute ago. Though different.

As you see, what I feel I have actually been doing, is talking about the tapes this whole time. But now to talk about the tapes. One of them makes me wonder what a sine would look like if it had a face… One is almost like looking inside a sine tone. Or is it that they’re building a structure out of sine tones and then not ever wishing to go inside for reasons unknown but probably something to do with the unnerving density of clustering reality? Both build sideways. Both build displacement. Constantly building whatever they’re building. Which is actually somewhat of a dismantling. Like walking on a beach in non-descript weather, looking for something to look for. Placement mops up dynamic and the recordings, the whole shebang, are as much an instrument or a microphone as an instrument or a microphone is an instrument or a microphone.

Both of these tapes are fantastic; both are entirely different in similar ways. And both are not of the same location but to me they are of the same perspective. I don’t know how much of a chance it was that they were released in succession, but chance or not, the way they move through each other in literality mirrors the way they move through each other in theme and content. We’re listening to something fold in the one just as the other is listening to something unfold. Both are one and the same. They’re as different to each other as my words are in reference to them. Plus, one of them made some of my books fall off the shelf, Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy no less.  That beast! 

harris2

[Jack Harris, Samuel Rodgers]

AMALIA2

[Yparxei Provlima Amalia]

Organised Music from Thessolaniki 

block

Karren. OLIVIA BLOCK
(Sedimental 2013)

Review by Patrick Farmer

Block writes in her liner notes that Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical metaphor described in The Presentation of Self in Every Day Life is a lens through which the entire composition, presented on vinyl, might be viewed as a metaphor for the self. After reading this I began to play with the thought that I can’t help but love finding myself at a loss for certain meanings of words. I’m sure I could think of many things to say about this release that would conform to a neat and tidy review. I have indeed said out loud many things to friends. But now I find myself at a place in which the written word is drawn up as a facilitator in order to postulate a sense of what it is to listen, or be listened to, rather than what it is to listen to something (influenced, as it were, by listening to something.) Over and over I feel that Karren presents a change of heart and that I am consciously presenting a reaction more so than an opinion. It’s as if I am a crowd of people hearing sentences a split second before they are written. Karren and the mutating language begin to influence the subsequent language about listening and being listened to. Altering the consideration of the language then being written. This language about listening has thus already been listened to. Block here shows what I am unable to say.

I tend to question what listening is more than I actually listen at the moment, ironic I know. And so often whilst I listen I can’t help but think that what I’m listening to is barely what I have been hearing. Wittgenstein once said that if someone is merely ahead of his time, it will catch up to him one day. Right now I take this and think about how I am always catching up to my listening; that once I am convinced I am listening I am not anymore, that I am hearing again before I once again begin to catch up. Listening always retains the possibility of no fixed location, thus it can be fixed, as well it can’t. Karren provides a possibility of listening as something that can facilitate this most fundamental of polarised reactions as it spreads out over a crowd. It can be simple enjoyment and quiet muster, it can be cause for a deliberate scene of placement and appointment, though I haven’t quite got to that yet, I’m still reveling in the former as if I’d never experienced it before. And it’s true, partly true, I haven’t, for quite some time experienced this before, in fact very few albums recently have even come close to lending this state of attentive carelessness on my behalf.

I’m unashamedly employing a layered idea rather than entertaining any sort of attitude. I feel a special sort of fool’s license in which I am trying to avoid describing this LP in terms of images. In which language is itself the image rather than the allusion of a possible image. Like a dream in which the individual is listening to the same memory through a hundred ears. I can’t help but consider that when I listen to this I am listening to it from the perspective of sound itself rather than with my own ears and my own crowded mind. Or anyway, it’s as if my ears are vibrating to the point that I can feel them shimmer. Is it possible to hear your own ears? Or for ears to hear themselves? Turning round again, it might be that right now I’m thinking, that Block has led me to thinking, that I am what is being listened to and that what I am listening to is the one doing the listening. Both are trying to catch up to the other and so it is inevitable that they will eventually collide. Karren has in many ways surpassed any expectation I may have not known I had.

block-2

Olivia Block website
Sedimental website

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