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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.

 

chw

[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.

TFR00000002

[Thomas Tilly]

Thomas Tilly website
Aussenraum website

 

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‘Strata’
Exchange between Richard Pinnell and Patrick Farmer

PDF download

Richard Pinell’s The Watchful Ear
Patrick Farmer website

 

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Niebla.
MONTE ISOLA -Myriam Pruvot-
(Wild Silence 2013)

Review by Flavién Gillie

L’île est la figure centrale de cet album paru sur le label Wild Silence.

Pour une raison sémantique tout d’abord, ainsi le projet Monte Isola de Myriam Pruvot est le nom d’une île italienne. Puis d’un continent à l’autre, cette création sonore doit son nom à un séjour sur île chilienne, Niebla en est son nom.

Dès la première piste du disque Myriam Pruvot nous plonge dans une ambiance portuaire, mais loin de s’en tenir à l’enregistrement de terrain, elle évoque avec brio ses souvenirs sonores et leur adjoint des strates, boucles de guitare pour mieux les magnifier.

On se trouve dès lors dans une géographie délicate, un va et vient maitrisé entre le lieu tel qu’il a été vécu et son interprétation intime que l’artiste nous en donne à entendre.

Chaque plage du disque est une archive de cette vie insulaire, nocturne sans doute quand seul le ressac fait grincer un bateau et qu’au loin on entend quelques chiens, le chant de Myriam Pruvot pourrait avoir été enregistré en direct qu’on n’en serait pas étonné, on l’imagine voyageuse sans sommeil, offrant ainsi à l’île son écho de chants issus d’une mythologie que seuls les insulaires connaissent encore.

Et quand en journée la présence des hommes revient pour les travaux d’entretien sans cesse à recommencer, résistance tenace contre des éléments implacables, l’artiste observe, enregistre des conversations quotidiennes, témoignage discret et précieux d’une activité fragile, disparaissante.

Gilles Deleuze est cité dans le dernier morceau, les îles sont d’avant l’homme. Gardons-nous d’une interprétation hâtive, glissons simplement dans notre écoute la convergence du mot désir. Celui d’une rencontre, avec l’île, avec les hommes qui y vivent car tout est vie dans ces prises de son, même la solitude de Myriam Pruvot se retrouve infiniment peuplée, seule avec une meute minimale, de sons, d’instruments, des cordes qui s’étirent, des nappes comme suspendues, dans un équilibre qui n’est pas la syncope, mais la rencontre.

On se souvient par ailleurs que le philosophe n’aimait pas tellement les voyages, les voyageurs, auxquels il préférait de loin les nomades. Il y avait cependant à ses yeux quelques exceptions, Francis-Scott Fitzgerald, JMG Le Clézio, Marcel Proust. Et après de nombreuses écoutes de Niebla, on se prend à penser que Gilles Deleuze aurait peut-être bien aimé le voyage de Myriam Pruvot.

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[Myriam Pruvot]

Translation to English -by Sismophone-

The island is the central character of this album released on Wild Silence.

For a sole semantic reason, the Monte Isola project of Myriam Pruvot is named after an italian island. But then, from one continent to another, this sound creation owes it’s denomination to a sojourn on a chilian island, named Niebla.

From the very first track of this disc, Myriam Pruvot plunges us into a harbour atmosphere, but far from restraining herself to field recording, she brilliantly evokes her sound memories and add layers of guitar loops to better intensify them.

Then one moves in a delicate geography, a skillfull back and forth between the place as it was experienced and it’s intimate interpretation that the artist offers to our ears.

Each track of this disc is an archive of this insular life, probably nocturnal when some boat creaks due to the backwash and remotely one hears a few dogs, and having recorded live the singing of Myriam Pruvot would not be surprising, one figures her as a sleepless traveler, offering the island her echo of songs coming from a mythology that only islanders still know about.

And when during the day the presence of men is back for maintenance works to ever start again, persistant resistance against merciless elements, the artist observes, records daily talkings, discrete and precious witnessing of a fragile activity, dying out.

Gilles Deleuze is mentioned in the last track, the islands are from before mankind. Let us step back from a too quick interpretation, but let us slide merely in our listening the convergence of the word desire. The one of an encounter, with the island, with it’s inhabitants as all is life in these sound recordings, even Myriam Pruvot’s solitude ends infinitely populated, alone with a minimal pack, of sounds, instruments, stretching strings, suspended layers, in an equilibrium that is no syncope, but encounter.

One recalls also that the philosopher did not really enjoy travelling, travelers, to which he by far preferred nomads. There were though to him a few exceptions, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, JMG Le Clézio, Marcel Proust. And after numerous listenings of Niebla, one could even think that Gilles Deleuze may very well have enjoyed the trip of Myriam Pruvot.

Myriam Pruvot website
Wild Silence website

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Points of Listening #4. Magic and Loss: an evening with David Toop

Review by Cheryl Tipp

On a sunny Wednesday evening a group of listeners came together to join David Toop in an auditory exploration of mystical objects and ancestral sound. The event itself was the latest in a new series of monthly gatherings, organised by Mark Peter Wright and Salomé Voegelin, which seek to encourage and promote collective listening through workshops, soundwalks, screenings, readings, debates and listening sessions.

The chosen venue was London’s Swedenborg Society, established in 1810 with the primary aim of translating and disseminating the works of Swedish scientist and philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg. As the  group gathered in the society’s bookshop, thumbing through titles and catching up with friends, a sense of anticipation and excitement began to drape itself around us.

At 19:00 the doors of the lecture theatre opened, the darkness within calling silently to our curiosity. As a natural hush descended over the audience, Toop took his place at the helm, turntable and vinyl at the ready. Watching Toop in the dimly lit room, the only source of illumination coming from the warm glow of a table lamp and a few shards of light breaking through the heavily-blinded windows, it felt as if we were watching somebody at home, moving between their favourite records as the weather raged outside or sleep remained elusive.

The ethereal song of the Rufous-throated Solitaire, taken from Jean Roché’s fabulous 1971 collection ‘Oiseaux des Antilles’, was a perfect bridge into the world of ritualistic songs, whispers, chants and music that was to come. For the next hour we sat and listened, individually and mutually fixated by the rhythms that snaked their way around us. With no playlist to hand, our imaginations were left to roam free and follow these sounds wherever they might lead us. Toop’s movements were equally ceremonial; a table of contents at the front of the stage was slowly constructed as he worked through the recordings, embellished with instruments, literature and the discs themselves. A subtle hint of incense caught at our nostrils, making us question whether this was real or just an olfactory hallucination summoned up by the imaginings of our minds.

Aside from the natural enjoyment experienced by an audience such as this, with hungry ears that are never sated, the practicalities of the event itself made me consider afresh new approaches to collective listening. How commentary or formal introductions are not always necessary, how a lack of information can help focus the ear and inspire complete immersion in the sound, how conversation post-event can be just as effective and complimentary. Information could be gathered and questions answered once the needle had been lifted for the final time and the lights came up, but for me I was content to go away with just my sonic memories, collected during one of the most fascinating listening sessions I have ever attended.

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David Toop website
Points of Listening website

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Espèces d’espaces.
RYOKO AKAMA, BRUNO DUPLANT
(Suppedaneum 2014)

 Review by Patrick Farmer

I went outside to record any birds today, coal tits, as it turns out, not something I often do, with a tape player. I rarely want to write about what I’m listening to directly. I want to write about what listening makes me think. Not just about what I’m listening to, but about listening, which could be anything.

I’m typing this paragraph last, the disc has finished, and George Perec’s novel, Life a User’s Manual, is lying open to my right, next to the loudspeaker – moments ago a page fluttered against the cone. The scores that are part of this release, four in all, are all over the place. My left speaker is upright. Perec’s architecturally small book, Species of Spaces, from which Akama and Duplant’s scores are farmed, is propped open at page 60. On page 60 Perec includes a quote from his friend, and fellow member of OuLiPo, Raymond Queneau. The roofs of Paris, lying on their backs, with their little paws in the air. I don’t know, it seemed apt.

This release has given me a lot of joy, it tickles. I laugh happily when considering the four pieces included in «Espèces d’espaces» as one, not one piece you understand, but one act. I’ve spent time with them in whatever permutation best suits at the time. This produces a wooden hose that runs through the object in equal measure, and does not kink, because it can’t.

As interesting as the recordings are on this disc, and they really are wonderful, I’ve spent most of my time playing with the scores themselves. Gingerly curious about any correlation I might find between what I’m listening to and what I’m seeing.  I don’t think it necessary to find a correlation you understand, not on any level, but I thought it’d be fun, which seems very much in keeping with the release.

I’ve listened to this CD a number of times, not as much as the CD deserves I should add, just like I have gone back over Perec’s Species of Spaces – which is always a pleasure, and always teaches me something when I’m least expecting it. Perec’s words are full of other light words, some of which are almost transparent. I can’t read French well enough to experience him in the original, so I realise what I say is tenuous and somewhat low.

Perec was, by all accounts, a materialist, not in the philosophical sense of the word, but linguistically. He considered language raw material, to be shaped, and worked on, as something that could be remodeled time and time again. The surfaces of his objects were almost always simple, but the layers that were affected underneath retained a highly sophisticated degree of awareness and intelligence. I’ve thought, like I’m thinking now, that this consideration has had some bearing on my treatment of this release as a whole, rather than a part. I tried listening to the first piece, or the third, etc., in isolation, but it felt confusing. Like I was standing on a map and couldn’t see below my nose. I could hear it, but not see it, and there’s so much to see here. I feel that this whole thing is a pattern, not, a sum of elements to be distinguished from each other, rather one in which no single existence, listening experience, or visual experience, precedes that of the other.

I put all the jigsaw pieces that come with this release, jigsaw pieces that when assembled constitute a score, or a reaction, I’m never sure, by Duplant, on the cone of the left loudspeaker. As I played the recording of «Espèces d’espaces» 01, it was, as Perec says, the double crosses, that held tight. During playback of the other three recordings, it was, exclusively, the little chaps, that enjoyed vibrating the most. With their little paws in the air.

Written on the inlay of my copy of Perec’s, Life a User’s Manual, a work whose structure, like a large number of globes stacked against a window, denotes a different reading depending on the angle of approach, it says:

Eileen & Ian

Merry Christmas ’93

With loads of love

Brian + Sylvie

x              x

Truth be told. I wanted to transport my CD player, amplifier, speakers, speaker wire, etc, to every room of the house, affording me the opportunity to be literal. I like how white noise sounds on reflective tile.

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[Ryoko Akama, Bruno Duplant]

Ryoko Akama website
Bruno Duplant discography
Suppedaneum website

 

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