Simon Whetham – Against Nature

Posted: 7 March 2016 in Albums
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Crónica – Crónica 103 – February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Simon Whetham has a considerable history of taking sound recordings – often environmental sounds – and working them into something unrecognisable, by means of various sonic and software mutations. Against Nature emerged from an exploration of what Whetham describes as ‘errors and failures’, using ‘badly built microphones, over-burdened amplifiers, motors driven by sound impulses, misbehaving software and objects toppling’ as part of an organic process. The album is in many ways accidental in nature, the end product determined more by the material than the artist. It could be seen, in some respects, as a project of artistic self-erasure. This album may bear Simon Whetham’s name, but his function here is as a conduit, more of an editor than an author of the work.

Against Nature may only contain five tracks, but the tracks are both lengthy and intense. Screeding noise sustains interminably, piercing tones that aren’t drones but something altogether more serrated. Pink noise switches to white noise. Hums crackle, fizz and whizz and gradually build to immense, barrelling walls of noise that suck the listener into an immersion tank of sound. The quieter passages lull the listener’s senses, a gentle breeze and the occasional clanking of what sounds like a yak’s bell evoke almost pastoral images, before once again building sonorous, scraping tension that creeps and swells. Metallic clattering grinds like a cement mixer. Blasts of static and white noise tear through silence.

The five movements of Against Nature are not rhythmic in their formation, and are free of anything one might refer to strictly as percussion. Primarily, it’s a work of tonal exploration, as sounds bend and bow against one another, straining and generating sonic frictions, but beneath it all, there are natural – or unnatural – resonances, pulsations, which form their own subtle rhythms. And these resonate biologically, psychologically, rubbing with and against the brain-waves and gnawing away, prodding the nerve-endings and ultimately working their way under the skin.

 

Simon Whetham - Against

 

Simon Whetham Online

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