Archives for category: Recordings

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Habitats for metal plants
CHRIS WHITEHEAD
(Linear Obsessional 2014)

Review by David Vélez

I

‘Habitats for metal plants’ is a release based the humorous existence of metallic plants in Great Britain.

From the liner notes

‘Plants growing in these environments have, by means of Darwinian natural selection coupled with sheer determination to survive, managed to incorporate various metals into their very DNA. The resulting species display a variety of features only made possible at the point where biology and metallurgy combine.’

II

‘Abandoned Magnesium Works, Hartlepool’

This piece presents a metallic quality reminiscent of previous Whitehead works. The clanking, rattling and droning sounds lead the listener to a somber path where scale and resonance acquire gigantic proportions. By minute 5′ the piece enters a new stance where the sense of of scale varies drastically. On minute 5′ a series of harsh and noisy textures emerge establishing a microscopic and detailed perception of things. By minute 7′ the large scaled metallic sound return. In addition the sounds of voices and construction machines join the composition creating a horizon where ‘reality’ and illusion blend.

Although the premise of the release is humorous the pieces present a serious and deep listening experience with the exception of piece number three, ‘Trainsition’, which by combining a mouth harp and recordings from a social gathering, achieves some sort of ‘funny’ sonority.

‘Derelict Ball Bearing Factory, Sheffield’

The second piece seems to be less about matter and more about electronics, here we can perceive sounds produced by static and distortion, By minute 2′ a tonal sonority emerges like an emotional aura that takes over and then fades away. By minute 3′ the pieces changes drastically as they enter sounds produced by human voices and what seems like human activity -dragging, throwing-. By minute 5′ we can listen to more ‘musical sounds’ and specifically a drone that sets the mood for the piece. Later we get to listen to something that sounds like a violin mixed with drones and, again, human voices. This model continues and develop until minute 10:30 where some deaf and repetitive sounds arise to just disappear in a similar way than the engine of a car strops running.

‘Trainsition’

The combination of a mouth harp and voices in this piece has a funny thing to it that makes sense with the whole premise of the work.

III

As someone who writes reviews of sound art and experimental music I am often exposed to new releases all the time. Releases submitted by new labels, through new means of distribution and by new artists presenting new new approaches… I think that the listener often has the sensibility and time to only focus on a few works and artists, and still he will recognize certain elements and approaches that will interest him more than others within the same body of work or even within the same piece.

I have been following the work of Chris Whithead for some time and when you sum his releases, as a listener, you can clearly perceive a formal direction, you tell the kind of formal questions that he is making. But here in particular one can perceive new approaches and questions. Through many points I noticed a greater emphasis on the isolation of certain individual sounds. I recognized too a very rewarding interest in melodic and harmonic patterns and in more musical sonorities in general . I could also tell a more experimental approach to the medium showing a developing interest in noise and distortion.

IV

Subjectively speaking ‘Habitats for metal plants’ stands out because a very fortunate ‘cinematic’ narrative sense that I found on it and that I highly welcome. The sonorities and structure make me feel in front of a movie and more specifically in front of an avant garde film that presents a series of very odd and bizarre actions and images randomly linked and using a highly encoded and hidden symbolism full of appeal and meaning.

 

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[Chris Whitehead]

Chris Whitehead website
Linear obsession website

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Terraform JAY-DEA LOPEZ
(Kaon 2014)

 Review by Cheryl Tipp

‘Terraform’ is the latest incarnation of the Taurion River, a body of water in France’s Limousin region that has formed the backbone of Kaon’s ongoing La Rivière series. Inspired by a collection of field recordings made by Cedric Peyronnet, this project has seen various sound artists pick up the acoustic gauntlet and create new compositions using Peyronnet’s archive as a starting point.

Jay-Dea Lopez is the latest artist to fall under the spell of this watery muse. With ‘Terraform’ he has created a piece that resonates with a kind of primal energy, reflecting the response of Lopez’s imagination on listening to the original recordings.

I imagine two parallel worlds, one at the end of its days and the other at its birth; both lie in darkness, cold winds swirl over rocky terrain. We move between the two, witness to a beginning and an end.  

A systolic-diastolic rhythm is a unifying feature of the work,  fading in and out as the composition progresses. Reminiscent of a beating heart, it feels as if we are tapping into the very life force of the river. In between these almost intimate moments, other sounds come to the forefront. Snippets of birdsong gradually materialise, showing us that the river is part of something more. A Blackbird sings, claiming his piece of the Taurion Valley. Perhaps he will raise a family there. Insect-like drones come and go, taking their place alongside the intermittent, pulsating  cadence.

The overall feel is one of uncertainty and transition, a shifting conscience that is neither based in one place or the other. It’s interesting to note that ’Terraform’ was partially composed during a residency in Estonia, 13,000km from Lopez’s home in Australia. I ask myself “How does place affect the creative process? “. A feeling of unfamiliarity and displacement, experienced by Lopez at the time, seems to have fed into his composition. At the same time this is joined by a sense of adaptation, anticipation and change, mirroring his adjustment  to new surroundings. This conjecture seems to fit with Lopez’s own description of his imagined Taurion world.

La Rivière is an exciting project which can only grow in stature as more artists lend their talents to the mix. With ‘Terraform’ Lopez has cemented his position in the Taurion hall of fame with a composition that is fresh, well-balanced and unmistakably him.

JDLOPEZ

[Jay-Dea Lopez]

Jay-Dea Lopez website
Kaon website

 

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Le Cébron / Statics and Sowers
THOMAS TILLY
(Aussenraum Records 2014)

Review by Chris Whitehead

I like surfaces. They make things what they are and without them we can’t have depths, because to be deep is to be a long way from the surface in a downward direction, and we need a point to measure from. Surfaces are boundaries between different states of being. The ice on a frozen lake is solid and it divides the gas above and the liquid below and it glints in the winter light and it creaks as the wind buffets it.

The 12″ circle of vinyl that these sounds are embedded in is itself a round lake surface, because it is opalescently ice coloured. A translucent cypher for the subject matter within. Indeed my copy has a dark line running through the material from the outer edge to the central hole, making the record a picture of imminent fracture, of breakage and fissure, like a crack from the perimeter firing through to the core.

In the apprehending of le Cébron (musique concrète du dehors), named after the lake on which it was made, the surface feels tense as a drum skin, stretched and taut as it responds to the actions of Sylvain, Phillipe and Julien – credited here for ‘crashing the ice’. At times sounds reminiscent of those produced in recordings of wire fences or sprung metal are created. The brittleness and hardness of this frozen medium highlights the solidity of it, and yet the ease with which it is broken points out its impermanence. Without doubt it will become thin, disseminate and dissolve into a fluid state with the passage of time.

In small detonations of crackling animation, shards splinter and slide and sprawl and unfold and abrade against each other across the stereo field. Attack and decay made tactile.

Thomas Tilly has angled the work to reflect the truth that this frozen water is completely dependent on the liquid beneath on which it floats and the air above remaining cold enough to sustain it. As ice is forcibly broken the water under it readjusts itself after the trauma by gurgling and trickling back to its predetermined equilibrium again. In the air above waterfowl call quietly in the gently shifting air.

With each side of vinyl devoted to a single track, the second composition, Statics and sowers (for Zbigniew Karkowski) walks the ephemeral tightrope between the worlds of insect produced sound and electronic emission. It has always been a mainstay  of the lazy reviewer to equate the clicks and glitchery of electrons coursing through silicon components to the scrapes and buzzes of insects’ beating wings and rhythmic abrasions. There is a tension between these sounds. Tilly plays with the tension and avoids getting stung.

Immediately the record begins spinning we are dropped into a maelstrom of buzzing bees, a cricket-like clicking forms from below and exists for a while as a symbiotic factor. Oh yes, we are certainly in thrall to the laws of the apian colony, but as if leaking through the hive walls electrical manifestations creep in. Like the free scrawl and crosshatching of Jean-Luc Guionnet’s drawings which adorn the cover, hive life is busy and highly kinetic.

After some time a drop into a plasma field occurs and the insects circle the outside but are never let in. Clouds of luminous vapour and bristling molecules float impermanently. They fade. Their existence is brief. The bees return.

Throbbing obliteration occurs later, suddenly and loudly in a fluctuating and deep envelopment. A connection is broken after several minutes of heavy vortex and with a final glitch-burst the clear air returns. All that remains is the lingering of background static, a few trails of fading squall and of course the bees.

Aussenraum only release vinyl and they do it with great thought, and removing this artefact from the turntable I’m reminded again of the frozen lake. The record is ice, a frozen lake. But outside the sun is shining, and a bee is noisily arguing with the glass in the window. I open the window slightly and carefully guide it out. I watch it fly over the fence and across the street and finally disappear.

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[Thomas Tilly]

Thomas Tilly website
Aussenraum website

 

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Cévennes
MARC NAMBLARD, OLIVIER NAMBLARD
(Kalerne 2013)

Review by Cheryl Tipp

Where to start? With the premise, the content, the quality, the beauty? Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning. To the set the scene for the delights that await every listener who purchases this wonderful set.

Walk, wait, wander, return and remember

 ‘Cévennes’ is a stunning collection of field recordings from the Massif Central region of France, an elevated expanse of land that runs from the centre to the south of the country. Informed by familiarity, memory and fondness, these selected sound portraits were drawn from a much larger archive of recordings from respected “audio-naturalists and listening wanderers”, Marc and Olivier Namblard. Add to this the curatorial expertise of Yannick Dauby and you know you’re in for a treat.

The recordings themselves are varied, engaging, perfectly judged and expertly implemented. Spread over two CDs, this fine collection offers over two hours of the most exquisite listening. Birds, mammals, insects, amphibians and  environmental phenomena take their seats in this most fabulous natural orchestra, each track a movement in the overall symphony that celebrates the sounds of this spectacular landscape.

It’s so difficult to highlight particular recordings when all are equally worth of mention. Some are particularly special though. ‘Bouldras’, for example, is an absolute triumph. The wingbeats of Griffon Vultures as they congregate around carrion are reminiscent of heavy sails unfurling in the breeze. You can almost hear each individual feather.

Immerse your ears in a bouquet of heather…

The minuscule delicacies of stridulating grasshoppers and the purring wingbeats of hawk-moths, featured in ‘Adreit’ and ‘Poussiels’, are great ambassadors for the sonic potential that lies within the invertebrate domain.

Even the steady footfall of the humble cow is transformed into a work of art. Conversations within the herd, feeding in the soft grass, are joined by the “fleeting acid verse” of a nearby Corn Bunting and the churring advertisements of a bush-cricket, creating a pastoral scene of the highest order.

The collection closes with the ethereal ‘Bisa’. The gusting adventures of a powerful wind sweeping across the plateau are gradually accompanied by the hypnotic Aeolian drone of vibrating wires and fences.

As I listen to the collection again I realise that words alone cannot do justice to ‘Cévennes’. I could easily sing the praises of each recording but it still wouldn’t be enough. You need to hear these recordings, to sit back and revel in this faultless tribute to a land that holds a special place in the hearts of these two exceptional recordists.

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[Olivier and Marc Namblard]

Olivier Namblard discography
Marc Namblard website
Kalerne website 

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Music for earbuds
STEPHEN CORNFORD

(3Leaves 2013)

Review by David Vélez

From Stephen Cornford’s website

‘A series of works composed entirely from acoustic recordings of the feedback between a walkman tape-head and a pair of earbud headphones.’

I

Is not really easy to recognize the sources of the recordings captured for ‘Music for earbuds’ with the exception of the piece ’03′ where the listener can hear the distorted sounds of a natural environment inhabited by birds, insects and other animals. This difficulty leads to an exercise where one can imagine the causality of the sonorities projected in the noisy feedback sounds. For example ’01′ resembles a group of bees; on ’02′ the high pitched sonorities evoke the harsh buzz produced by cicadas. On ’04′ I picture sounds produced by either electric or mechanical means. Something similar happens with ’05′.

Excluding ’03′ and ’05′ the release presents a very repetitive and minimalistic narrative structure that works very well with its harsh sonorities.

II

What I find more interesting about ‘Music for earbuds’ is the method and process behind it, the exploration and instrumentation of the notion of feedback which sparks a poetic and metaphoric horizon of lecture in regard of the perceptual listening process. 

We often figure out a model where the world is outside us and the perception through which we perceive this world is inside us, but this model becomes ambiguous and complex when we consider the potential feedback between input and output. Maybe the sounds that we listen don’t occur where we think they occur; our notion of the outside world is mediated by an interpretation that our brain does of ‘external’ inputs.

III

Heraclitus said ‘You could not step twice into the same river’ so with this in mind it can be inferred that a sound will never repeat itself.

The conditions on which we listen to a certain sound will never repeat themselves, and I am not only talking about the conditions of a constantly changing physical wold but I am also talking about the developing semantic monologue of our thoughts that inexorably feedbacks with the environmental sources of sound. I also think about the ever-fluctuating mood of the listener that draws a mirroring process with the external resonances.

The usually soothing and relaxing sound of a quiet creek can become sinister and dreadful approached from a dramatic or anxious perspective; in the same way a haunting scream acquire a complete different emotional meaning given the chance and context.

The subjective and contextual aspects in the beholder’s perspective are essential in the construction of a sound.

For instance when I listen to ’03′ I hear this natural environment inhabited by animals, but I hear it in a distorted way; the artificial and eerie textures point to a sense of mediation. This is not just a natural environment but a natural environment interpreted and mirrored.

IV

I have no idea if there is a relation between all the things that I wrote on this review and what Cornford might had in mind when he composed ‘Music for earbuds’. I also don’t know how much of what I wrote would have been written if I didn’t learned about the process behind the work. Still this is a release that very likely echoes in its formality the beautiful poetry of its process.

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[Stephen Cornford, photo courtesy of Luca Ghedini for Eventi]

Stephen Cornford website
3Leaves website

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Grey Ladies. SYBELLA PERRY
(Porta / Hideous Replica 2014)

Review by Chris Whitehead

In a field known as Nine Stones Close on Harthill moor, Derbyshire, stands the Bronze Age stone circle known as Grey Ladies. It is the tallest circle in the county, and in 1780 Rooke recorded six erect stones, although today only four remain. A fifth stone seems to have been set into a dry stone wall close by. According to Rooke “if we may judge by the eye, there were formally nine”. In 1936 two of these required re-erection and were set in concrete. The stones vary in height from 1.2 to 2.1 metres.

Standing in the circle and looking toward the south west, the major southern moon can be seen setting between the irregular and imposing crags that form Robin Hood’s Stride. This may account for the siting of the Grey Ladies in such an evocative location.

Research into the acoustic properties of stone circles and tombs has shown that they were constructed with the transmission of sound being an architectural concern. Studies by Aaron Watson and Dave Keating on the Easter Aquorthies circle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland has shown that the recumbent altar stone acts as a stage. Music played there will reflect from the surfaces of the other stones into the centre of the circle.

It would also seem that chambered tombs can be made to resonate by playing certain tones into them. Most tombs are tuned to 110Hz – 112Hz, which is the baritone range of the human voice. There is evidence that aspects of the interiors of these chambers were purposefully altered and modified to create this effect, and that it could be achieved by simply singing the correct note is surely significant.

On two of the least inclement days of February, Bella Perry and her team of stone resonators entered Nine Stones Close and pointed their equipment at these huge, unforgiving rocks. In the case of vocalist Samuel Ayre he sang into the mineral surface in the hope that  a chain reaction of vibrating crystals would mirror his keening.

Part scientific investigation, part artwork and yet a kind of communing with the lost distances of human ancestry, the whole endeavour comes across as a shamanistic ritual drilling sound holes through time. The concentration required was intense. Speaking to Bella she makes the point that when they were getting close in their quest for this frequency connection, they’d push too far too soon and have to go back to the beginning and start all over again. In her words: ” There seemed to be something very fitting about working in this way, that perhaps in the past groups of people also spent long periods with focused concentration trying to resonate these stones. That it was a kind of meditative bonding activity, not something that would occur instantaneously, but that it almost had to be willed into action.”

The disc comes with several visual representations of the undertaking, these include an A3 poster in blue and black depicting equipment, stones and people. On the other side is  a single large photograph of the back of a person’s head in front of one of the inscrutable Grey Ladies. Interestingly, also included is a see-through acetate overlay printed with an image of the whole circle and its adjacent tree. I say interestingly because this transparency mirrors a legend associated with the monuments: In the 19th century a farm labourer found a clay pipe in the circle. He smoked it and the ground beneath his feet became suddenly transparent and through it he witnessed a hidden realm inhabited by fairy folk.

The first sound after the CD has disappeared into the player comes as something of a shock. A raw, deep, guttural male voice sings an extended tone. Possibly Samuel Ayre is standing in the same place and creating the same sound as a Bronze Age singer might have done, his wordless vocalisation at once earthy and naked. There is no artifice of any kind and a quiet breeze blows and the grass moves slightly and the stones are immobile sentinels.

Starting at the aforementioned 110Hz and then varying the pitch to chase this elusive spectre of concurrence, electronic tones in the form of sine waves are beamed at the circle. The entire composition is augmented by the uncertainty of success, to the point where the issue of whether stones actually resonated is less important than the collective working towards a commonality of purpose.

What we have is an intimate document of an experiment, but it plays like a ritual. It plays like a meditation, an attempt to form a conduit between different states of matter and between civilisations separated in time. It takes the form of a summoning prayer for hidden phenomena. When listened to in the dark with those winds lashing the windows and the rain throwing nails at the roof, thinking about the megaliths still out on the moors, enduring as they always have done, that’s what resonates. I can vouch for that.

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[Documentation photos]

Sybella Perry website
Hideous Replica website
Porta website

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The Hebrides Suite CATHY LANE
(Gruenrekorder 2013)

Review by Cheryl Tipp

 ‘The Hebrides Suite’ is a multi-layered collection of composed works that reflect Cathy Lane’s ongoing fascination with the Outer Hebrides. A mixture of field recordings, audio diaries, conversations, interviews and oral histories drawn from archives across Scotland, these six pieces explore the history, traditions and ways of life of these ancient islands.

How does history – past lives and past events – leave sonic traces and how do we hear them?

Each piece is based around a particular theme pertinent to island life, be that weaving, local transportation, crofting or religion. All are complex patchworks of sound that have the power to take your breath away. Each one a fascinating vignette that encapsulates its subject in an engaging, imaginative and sophisticated manner. The multifaceted nature of these compositions creates an intensity that is almost tangible, demonstrating once again the power of sound to evoke a feeling or induce a reaction.

‘Tweed’ is a captivating interpretation of the weaving industry of the Outer Hebrides. The clatter and hum of machinery is embellished with disembodied voices that develop their own rhythms, akin to the lyrical nature of the looms used to produce this famous cloth.

The only piece not to feature any spoken word is ‘Gaoth (Wind)’. It’s a beautiful homage to the ever present wind and coming in at the middle of the CD, creates an effective natural break between the more intensive arrangements before and after.

‘Watch Over Us All’ is a sombre conclusion to the suite, acknowledging the central role religion still plays in the lives of the island inhabitants. Community is everything here and the church is at the heart of this. As the singing and the sermon gradually fade, the delicate song of a Skylark takes centre stage, pointing towards the rich biodiversity that exists here.

A huge amount of time, thought, emotion and effort has gone into ‘The Hebrides Suite’. Each work is wonderfully intricate, comprising snippets of recordings that must have been painstakingly researched, collected, analysed and brought together. It demands and deserves attention.

‘In 2006, I sat looking through the misty soft rain towards the ruined chimney and listened to a ship motoring into the sea loch below, almost right up to the whaling station, lifting lobster pots. A little further up the road is the spot where on two separate cycle tours from the south to the north of the Outer Hebrides I was defeated by a mixture of horizontal rain and a ferocious headwind and gratefully turned around and headed back towards Tarbert and the gentler south. On one of those journeys I remember the sound of a weaving loom from inside a shed as we passed it on the road.’
-Cathy Lane

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[Cathy Lane; photo courtesy of CRISAP]

Cathy Lane website
Gruenrekorder website

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Between dawn and dusk
SABRI MEDDEB
(self release 2013)

Review by Daniel Crokaert

Settled in Brussels since about ten years, Sabri Meddeb, from Tunisian origin is not exactly a newcomer…he has already mixed with some other well-known artists, notably Michael Northam, and Sachiyo Honda with whom he collaborated in the common project Hokuro. Other than that, he is an autodidact musician very concerned with the cultural melting pot and keen on the input of other art forms in his own music…

Blessed with a sort of tranquil force coupled with a nonstandard sensitivity, his musical universe is the result of a work on himself leant on the memory resurgences, a perpetual search for this fragile balance between the inside and the outside via a series of questionings…

“Between dawn and dusk” is of course supposed to suggest a slow transformation, a passage from dawn to dusk, but it’s the night which prevails…

to which journey does Sabri invite us ? To the one of introspection through a quasi Symbolist Nature…

like a sharp walker/listener, he leads us into the centre of some primordial rocking movement which all at once saps our wakening,
and stimulates it to something else.

While the first piece Between dawn and dusk “cycle of night-twilight” opens, one captures the quivering of vegetation, the trembling of leaves on the dry structures of the wood, and the nagging nocturnal chant of cicadas…but also, the chirping of a few birds and far away barks which give depth of field to the scenery…

Nothing is more difficult than to abstract ourselves from what surrounds us, to simply be in the flux, in this vibrancy of life.

And here, Sabri Meddeb manages to captivate his audience by grasping the strength of a moonbeam, an ounce of wind, the carrier air, of all those murmurs of plant and animal life…

If only we surrender ourselves to it, the resulting landscape is of a resounding truth, not so much in its fidelity to the real, but in its content, its introduction to the world…

The second central and much shorter track is also the most musical one…

it uses the same ingredients, while weaving on the top of it an ethereal drone made of delicate manipulations of singing bowls, and progresses in waves which end up dying naturally like a breath going out…

Then returns the atmosphere of the first composition in Reflection contemplation where modelled on a large natural orchestra, emerges a blend of a firmly cosmic scope which dwells at length on the weighty Mystery of Life without ever piercing it…

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[Sabri Meddeb]

- Translation to French-

Sabri Meddeb, d’origine tunisienne et établi à Bruxelles depuis une dizaine d’années, n’est pas tout à fait un nouveau venu…il s’est déjà frotté à quelques autres artistes de renom, dont notamment Michael Northam et Sachiyo Honda avec lesquels il a collaboré dans le cadre d’un projet commun sous le nom de plume Hokuro. Sinon, il s’agit d’un musicien autodidacte très impliqué dans le métissage culturel, et féru de l’apport des autres arts dans sa propre musique…

Doué d’une sorte de force tranquille doublée d’une sensibilité hors norme, son univers musical est le fruit d’un travail sur lui-même appuyé sur les résurgences mémorielles, une recherche perpétuelle de cet équilibre fragile entre l’intérieur et l’extérieur à travers une série de questionnements…

“Between dawn and dusk” semble évidemment suggérer une lente transformation, un passage de l’aube au crépuscule, mais c’est la nuit qui prédomine…

A quel voyage Sabri nous convie t-il ? A celui de l’introspection au travers d’une Nature quasi-Symboliste…

comme un promeneur/écouteur aiguisé, il nous mène au centre même d’une sorte de bercement primordial qui tout à la fois sape notre éveil, et le stimule à autre chose.

Lorsque s’ouvre la première pièce Between dawn and dusk “Cycle of night-twilight”, l’on capte le frémissement de la végétation, le frisonnement des feuilles sur les structures sèches du bois, et le lancinant chant nocturne des grillons…mais aussi le pépiement de quelques oiseaux et de lointains aboiements qui donnent une profondeur de champ au décor…

Rien n’est plus difficile que de s’abstraire de ce qui nous entoure, de simplement être dans le flux, ce pétillement de la vie.

Et ici, Sabri Meddeb parvient à captiver son audience en saisissant le pouvoir d’un rayon de lune, d’une once de vent, de l’air colporteur, de tous ces murmures de la faune et de la flore…

Pour peu qu’on s’y abandonne à son tour, le paysage sonore résultant est d’une criante vérité, pas tellement dans sa fidélité au réel, mais dans sa teneur, son introduction au monde…

La deuxième piste centrale et beaucoup plus courte est la plus musicale…

elle se sert des mêmes ingrédients, tout en tissant par dessus un drone éthéré fait de délicates manipulations de bols chantants, et avance en ondes qui finissent par s’épuiser naturellement comme un respiration qui s’éteint…

Puis revient l’univers de la première composition dans Reflection contemplation où, à l’image d’un grand orchestre naturel, se dégage un mélange résolument cosmique qui s’appesante sans le percer sur le lourd Mystère de la Vie…

Sabri Meddeb website

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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

nogr*baga

Vaccabons et malfactours
FRÉDÉRIC NOGRAY -working with recordings by Cédric Peyronnet-

(Kaon 2013)

Review by David Vélez

I

There is a strong level of intention in the action of recording environmental sounds. This intention is expressed in aspects like the subject of the recording, the kind of microphones used, the place where the microphones are placed in the field, the hour of the day chosen to record, the time of the year where the recordings were made…etc…etc….

But at the same time recording environmental sounds is a very contemplative action; on every environmental recording we are capturing seconds, minutes and hours of incidental randomness.

But, what makes for random and organic textures, patterns and structures to be so potentially appealing? This is a good question that Psychoacoustics have in a way answered, linking for example the songbirds with the origins of human language. I personally think that the lack of communicating purpose and intention that we find in these random forms is actually what makes them appealing and even meaningful. The absence of ideas and words in their forms allows the listener to explore things in a different way, leading him to bear a more universal and yet personal sense of things.

II

‘La Rivière CD series…Using the sound bank designed by Cédric Peyronnet, who recorded the nuances of Taurion River and its valley for 3 years, in Limousin, sound artists offer their interpretations through a series of compositions. Artists were asked to work on the composition of a sound piece created using the provided recordings or on the composition of a sound piece inspired by listening to the sound provided and consultation of the accompanying documents.’
-From Kaon’s website

Frédéric Nogray has established today as one of the notable sound composers working with untreated recordings of wild life and other natural areas, but in ‘Vaccabons et malfactours’ (part of ‘La Riviere’ series) Nogray limited to equalize, edit and layer preexistent recordings captured by Peyronnet six years ago.

This is a very nice release that, despite of the potential layering, presents itself in an austere documental manner, sounding very realistic and believable.

The area around the Taurion river is probably very quiet and soothing as most of the recordings suggest but Nogray also included recordings that show a louder and harsher aspect of this location; the noisy captures probably belong to heavy rain or a fast-flowing part of the river and these sounds add a great sense of contrast to the piece. There is always a level of eeriness and darkness to a quiet place that, when taken into account, offers depth and mystery to the listener’s experience.

The quality of the sound here is noteworthy, the fine sounds captured by Peyronnet were greatly worked by Nogray who managed to bring out the textures to a very bright and crisp level that I greatly enjoyed; a great work for those interested on environmental recordings with a little fictional twist.

nograaaa3

[Fréderic Nogray]

Frédéric Nogray website
Kaon website

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