Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Folk Wisdom – FW007 – 21st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

It begins with a drip. Then silence. Another drop. Irregular, both in pitch and distance apart. Bubblish, sloshing. Chiming, ringing notes skip over the swashing ripples. Pipes and people, all passing through. And throughout, continuously, the sound and sensation of running water, or, at last, the evocation of running water. The sounds are fluid, metaphorically where not literally. It’s a graceful, natural sound. But beneath the organic, idyllic surface lies a serious and darker undercurrent.

Initially inspired by an expedition to the Tujuksu glacier near the Kazakh city of Almaty, Gletschermusik began with the recording of sounds of the glacier, at an altitude of 3,500 metres, melting. Many artists would have been content to have left it there: field recordings can be fascinating in themselves, and Geir Jenssen’s Stromboli – recorded at the edge of the crated of the bubbling volcano – stands as one of my favourite field recording releases of all time. The recordings, made by the placement of highly sensitive microphones in the crevices of the glacier, proved to be just the beginning, though, and the project would evolve through a succession of life performances and an international conference.

With climate change being perhaps the greatest challenge to face humanity at any point since prehistory, it’s laudable to find artists engaging in such a way, without taking a messianic stance. Gletschermusik is a project born out of a genuine desire to raise awareness and prompt discussion. Be honest, who even knew there were glaciers in Kazakhstan? And yet, as far back as 2003, there were reports emerging that the glaciers in the former Soviet republic were melting at an unprecedented pace. It’s a project that provokes thought.

Subtly, and intelligently, the project reminds us that water, and the planet, is mutable. Gletschermusik (literally, ‘glacier music’) takes the sounds and images of the melting glaciers as its inspiration, but ventures out in various different directions. As such, this is a work which has been composed and performed rather than belonging to the world of field recordings. Sonically, it’s a wide-ranging electroacoustic set. While ‘Winter into Spring’ highlights the small changes the seasons bring, in relative terms, the album as a whole is concerned with the long-term changes and the effects of global warming. ‘Eiskritalle’ introduces dynamic drumming, while ‘Geologdun Yry’ takes the form of an acoustic folk song. It is, by its nature, a highly personal response to the natural world and man’s difficult relationship with his environment. Consequently, the individual pieces do not necessarily evoke glaciers, or if so, not in any conventional sense in terms of the languages of music or criticism: there are no icy synths or interminable crawls to be heard on Gletschermusik. Similarly, the drama of such cataclysmic ecological and environmental change is not expressed in dramatic, tempestuous crescendos that boom foreboding. Gletschermusik is remarkable for its delicacy, its easy musicality. It’s rare and also extremely welcome to find a work which is conceptually heavy but handled with such lightness.

 

Gletschermusik

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clang records – clang045 – 19th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

A note hangs in the air, sustaining, resonating, slowly decaying. Just before silence encroaches, the next note is struck. It hovers, hangs and gradually fades. A slow, oscillating drone crawls beneath. There is movement, but it’s evolutionary.

‘Brittle Evenings’ is led by an unfurling picked guitar line, deliberate, ponderous, reminiscent of the later Earth albums. Ghostly tones remain, sonic erasures which correspond with the idea of the palimpsest, and offer clues to the way the pieces formed. 14 short, quiet guitar pieces penned by Bell Monks for an art opening in 2012 provided the basis for the work. Later, they invited Ben Willis and Matt Sintchack (contrabass and saxophone respectively) to play over the tracks. Despite the addition of these new layers, they still felt the work seemed incomplete, and so called upon Gregory Taylor to rework the tracks digitally. Finally, with over 100 minutes of audio, it was Lars Graugaard’s editing which shaped the ten pieces which comprise the final track-listing. As such, the album is the result ofnear-infinite layering, relayering, additions and deletions.

But as to where one individual’s contribution ends and another’s begins is impossible to determine, and the beauty of the album is the way in which the parts blend, smudge, and blur together, folding into and over one another, obscuring, reshaping and remoulding to accommodate or obliterate previous layers and edits.

Each piece is also formed around shifting tones and sounds, the shapes and structures indistinct, fluid. Indeed, very little of the original guitar work is in evidence on listening to these pieces. Warm tones and an organic feel permeate the album’s fabric, although this is touched by a counterpoint of mechanical sounds, whirring, grating, rumbling. As one layer of sound fades, another emerges, leaving the shadows of the one before. Long, mournful strings quaver over rippling electronics and dulcimer-like chimes flicker in soft washes of sound. On ‘…Et Tremblant Feuilles’, perhaps the album’s most linear piece, a sonorous bass with gothic overtones builds a darkly ominous atmosphere.

The semi-industrial dark ambience of ‘Caress of Sun’ is constructed of layers of sound, heavy drones and interminably elongated scrapes, growing denser, deeper and more abstract as it progresses, emerging in a dazzlingly kaleidoscopic world. It isn’t until the album’s eighth track, ‘Sublimation Residue’, that the guitar becomes prominent once again, and once again, it gradually fades out to be engulfed by a soft sonic cloud.

 

Bell Monks   Gregory Taylor

Kit Records – 31st August 2016

James Wells

The title is a reference to various artists who enjoyed a creative surge in their later years, who, instead of tapering away to an end horizon, defied the conventional downward trajectory to create works which marked a new and noteworthy phase in their already illustrious careers.

As the blurb explains, ‘Ageing isn’t always a dignified, serene fade. The brink before death can be violently creative; it can bring about loss of inhibition, unexpected innovations and sourceless leaps. In art, late style often means an unfettered outpouring. Confined to a wheelchair following cancer surgery, Matisse turned to simple paper cutouts in his later years. The work produced in this period, his ‘seconde vie’, became his most admired – physical restriction had been inverted in an expression of freedom and colour. Goya’s last works were also a departure from former style. Increasingly deaf and fearing insanity, he created a series of dark paintings reflecting this bleak, morbid outlook on life. Sensory deterioration seemed to offer Goya unprecedented vision’.

In recent months, I’ve heard and reviewed a number of albums which use – and abuse – church organs to unconventional ends, although a common thematics are their slow decay and their relationship with their surroundings, the architecture and sense of place. Sense of space is also integral to the instrument’s sound: as grand an instrument as a church organ is, much of its power resides in the natural reverb of the building in which it is installed.

But Late Style is a work preoccupied less with location or architecture, but time, and where the organ’s power is concerned, the focus of attention here is on the diminishment of that power, something which also inspired Stefan Fraunberger’s recent album Quellgeister 2: Wurmloch.

However, while Fraunberger’s work and Michel Moser’s Antiphon Stein were centred around pipe organs, Drömloch’s instrument of choice is a Hohner church organ, a synthesiser situated at the label’s headquarters. And so it is that an instrument which once produced sounds resembling a pipe organ near the end of its life wheezes in a different kind of way, leading to the contemplation that ‘Perhaps circuitry and software can have late style, too.’

As is often the case when process becomes integral to the end product, a little expanation goes a long way: ‘Like creatures and plants, they change over time; they decay, confront mortality, and their functions adapt. This record is a collection of live takes recorded directly from a Hohner church organ at the point of collapse. This circuitry of this hulking synth, long-installed at Kit HQ, has inexplicably decayed over time, rendering its preset drum loops and melodies as raptures of white noise, squelches and and bizarrely spiralling clangs. The result is primitive, aleatoric music – weirdly moving digital swan-songs, each named after the mangled preset triggered during recording’.

Late Style may be dominated by elongated drones and quivering, wavering hums, sounds recognisable as originating from the groan and swell of a dilapidated organ, but bubbling bleeps and less organ-ic sounds are overlaid and cut across these to forge strange juxtapositions.

The first track ‘8 Beat Variation’ finds the organ fading in and cutting out while stop-start percussion and variable echoes and delays disrupt any kind of flow. With volumes and tones wavering and fluttering unpredictably, and extraneous feedback, whistles, crackles and pops interfering with the irregular drum machine beats, the effects is disorientating.

‘Waltz’ sounds very like the time one spends fiddling with a keyboard trying to find the right sound, when every preset just sounds naff. If much of Late Style sounds like s much pissing about, then perhaps that’s largely the point: like many experimental albums – Miguel Frasconi’s Standing Breakage (for Stan Brakhage) captures the artist striving to push a cracked glass bowl to its limits and beyond – Late Style is about taking an opportunity when it presents itself and capturing the outcome. In this sense, it’s a truly experimental work.

The fact that this album, and those mentioned previously, are concerned with the destruction, or death, of an instrument, is significant: the fundamental premise of the avant-garde is that in order to move forward, to create anew, it is first necessary to destroy.

There are also some quite compelling moments to be found here: the surge and swell of ‘OI’ builds an ominous drama, while ‘Key’ is a rather fun exercise is microtonal blippage that sits alongside Mark Fell’s exploratory releases on Editions Mego. However, unlike Fell’s works, Late Style is both more varied and more listenable.

Drömloch - Late Style

Telephone Records – 8th July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Wakefield-born and Glasgow-raised Martin Creed probably has a fair few detractors. The Turner Prize has a peculiar tendency to wind people up, art fans and critics and the general populace alike And so, while in art circles he’s known as a self-effacing, playfully provocative artist, to many, he is known as being the 2001 winner of the Turner Prize-Winner, who became infamous overnight for his installation piece, Work no. 227: the lights going on and off.

For many, such a work would be an unbearable albatross, but Creed is one of those people who’s always onto the next thing before the dust has settled around the thing before, and he’s a true polyartist, who has, seemingly, no fixed medium of choice, instead preferring to let his creative impulses flow through whatever medium he feels fits best. And throughout his career, the ever-idiosyncratic Creed has made music, with Thoughts Lined Up representing the latest in a long line of releases.

Judging by the cover image, and Creed’s spectacularly diffuse output, the title seems rather incredible. By which I mean, it’s hard to believe he could line up his thoughts in a queue for the checkout: this is a man who thrives on chaos, disorder, who eschews organisation and conformity in favour of free-flowing creativity, anarchy and all things random.

The title makes more sense in light of the artist’s own explanation of its meaning, which is refreshing in its simplicity: “It’s called Thoughts Lined Up because that is literally what it is,”, he says, “just all these bits – these thoughts – put in a row one after the other, trying not to worry about what they add up to. Most of it started as audio notes recorded on the Tube or in the street – just little everyday mantras that you say to yourself as you go along; things that come up in your head, and that help keep you going, or that sometimes you want to go away…”

And so, the end product is an album that in many respect is a one-stop compilation, a work which wouldn’t be much further from a concept album if it tried – unless that concept was a haphazard collection of songs thrown together and sequenced one to twenty-four out of conventional and commercial necessity. One kind of gets the impression that if all of the album’s songs could have been arranged to play simultaneously, then that’s how they would have been presented. The thoughts are lined up, in a sequence, but this isn’t a linear album or a collection of songs unified by anything beyond the mind from which they emerged.

According to the blurb, the album was Recorded at ArtSpace, Brixton, and mixed by Liam Watson at Toe Rag Studios, the album was recorded to 1-inch tape in one week just before Christmas 2015, and mixed with sonic impresario Liam Watson, in glorious mono, on the ex-Abbey Road EMI desk at Hackney’s legendary, analogue-only Toe Rag Studios. Yes, mixed in glorious mono. On the one hand, given the audio technology we have now, however much one may adore the inimitable sound of analogue, to master an album in mono is simply perverse. On the other, it’s another manifestation of Creed’s rejection of convention, and at the same time can be seen as an observation on the way listeners actually hear music nowadays: just as everyone seems to be obsessed with shooting optimal quality photos with digital SLR cameras only for them to be viewed on piddly mobile phone screens via Facebook, so the idea of superior audio recordings to be consumed through shit iPod phones, laptop and mobile phone speakers seems absurd. And Martin Creed revels in those absurd contradictions, and does so with grace and humour, and not with one eye firmly set on the mass markets.

And so, the songs are amusing, entertaining, whimsical, wonky. Some sound half-finished, many evoke the spirit of the Bonzo Dog Band, while others call on psychedelic folk traditions, and other still call to mind the choppy sound of the early Fall albums, and Creed is unafraid of cumbersome or cliché rhymes. It’s a haphazard, hit-and-miss affair, but it’s zany and it’s fun and Creed’s singularity and disregard for marketability is admirable.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/167247762

MartinCreedAlbumArtworkSmall_1

Martin Creed Online

Rock is Hell / UNrecords – RIP 66 / unrec11 – February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

 

Maja Osojnik is an angry woman. A woman on the edge. A woman with inner strength. After 14 band albums, her first solo outing is a highly charged work, heavy with stark emotions and raw catharsis.

‘Tell me, what do you want me to be?’ she asks in an opium monotone on ‘Tell Me’. Slowly, her offers become more desperate and pained, her multiple voices speaking simultaneously before she slams it all down on the table, unable to maintain her decorum any further: ‘Ill become… all the images you want / so you can walk on me / sleep in me / so you can throw all your shit on me / Tell me, what the fuck do you want me to be?’ It’s chilling in its directness, its apparent lack of artistic distance.

‘Let Them Grow’ is one of those albums that hits like a punch to the solar plexus. It’s impossible not to laud the artist for her openness, her ability to convey so many painful emotions – but at the same time, it’s deeply uncomfortable. Listen, people who use terms like ‘TMI’ are, in the main, uncomfortable because they don’t like to face brutal truths, particularly those belonging to other people. On ‘Let Them Grow’, Osojnick pays no regard to these emotionally closed or stunted types and simply lays it all out there, telling it like it is, spilling her guts because she has no other choice. This isn’t simply music, this is pure art and the very definition of catharsis. Let Them Grow is a work of exorcism, of expulsion.

If you hadn’t already figured, this is a challenging work. ‘Condition’ is a full-tilt rant against a backdrop which amalgamates industrial noise and tribal beats. ‘Stick it up your ass… Come out, you rotten cocksucker, here’s your fucking POP SONG’ she hollers bitterly. And she fucking means it: this isn’t mere petulance, but a middle finger to an establishment and a wider world that’s failed and ultimately fucked up- and which doesn’t value the arts and doesn’t recognise the value of art. It’s a shame, because this is art.

It’s not just the music: I received the CD in its gatefold card sleeve enveloped within a four-leaf pamphlet type wrapper, accompanied by a sticker and five postcards of the artist beautifully shot by Rania Moslam in a range of striking poses. The whole package was in turn wrapped in a parchment paper bag. It’s about the artefact, the attention to detail, the building of suspense and expectation while gaining access to the disc itself, which, in turn, does not disappoint. This is not merely an album. It’s a grand gesture.

From the most subtle, delicate pieces, led by softly-fingered piano, she slowly drags out every sinew of anguish, draws on every drop of pain and presents real emotion. Emotion that can’t be faked.

Brooding instrumental passages offer moments of respite, but then there are sections of growling industrial noise, dark and sinister, grinding and crushing, which are nothing short of devastating. Taut, tense and from the heart, Let Them Grow sees Maja Osojnick present an album that is unparalleled in its sincerity and astounding in its emotional and musical power.

Maja Osojnik

Maja Osojnik Online