Posts Tagged ‘Brion Gysin’

Editions Mego – EMEGO226 – 24th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest work from Florian Hecker, A Script for Machine Synthesis is described as ‘an experimental auditory drama and a model of abstraction’. The press release continues, explaining that ‘A Script for Machine Synthesis presents a complex simplicity that spirals in an unending manner as an audio image of the uncanny valley. It is the third chapter in the trilogy of text-sound pieces Hecker has collaborated with the philosopher Reza Negarestani. A resynthesized voice outlines procedure as procedure itself unfolds… The suggestive encounter with a pink ice cube is a conceptual point of departure for a scene in which linguistic chimeras of descriptors are materialized through synthetic trophies, mental props and auditory objects. Exeunt all human actors, A Script for Machine Synthesis is an experiment in putting synthetic emptiness back into synthetic thought.’

I’m reminded of a number of theory-based text works centred around automation and abstraction, ranging from William Burroughs’ cut-ups and Brion Gysin’s permutations, to Philippe Vasset’s 2005 novella, ScriptGenerator©®™, via Stewart Home’s experimental audio piece, ‘Divvy’, which used computer-generated voices to read the two simultaneous narratives. The concept of the removal of the author from the creative process is nothing new, and while a robotic takeover may have been more greatly feared in science fiction works of the 1970s and 1980s, the fact of the matter is that the threat is greater now than ever before – but people are generally too wrapped up in reality TV or killing themselves just to make ends meet and to pay the bills that the technological developments of the last decade or so have gone largely unnoticed: instead of a seismic shift, the takeover has been gradual and insidious.

A Script for Machine Synthesis exists in a strange territory between territories, or, more specifically, times. While drawing heavily on the paranoias – and, by its sound, technologies – of preceding decades, it’s very much a contemporary work in terms of its concept if not so much its rather retro-sounding execution.

A Script For Machine Synthesis is not an album one listens to for its textual content: it is a drab, monotonous work which centres – aside from the introduction and credits – around a single track some fifty-seven and a half minutes in duration. Slightly fuzzy monotone voices narrate the process of the process in the style of technical manuals, and lecturing a highly complex theory in the driest, dullest of styles, while bubbling synths and electronic scratches and bleeps provide distracting incidentals which aren’t quite distracting enough to break the monotony. It’s hardly riveting from a sonic perspective, either. At points, the words become practically inaudible as digital distortion and file corruption disrupt the audio. Skittering, warping interference do more than interfere with the audio flow, but create a certain cognitive dissonance which engenders a sort of subliminal tension: I find myself growing twitchy and jittery, manifesting in increasingly awkward head-scratching, and a difficulty in sitting still. It could just be a unique individual response, ad of course, any experiment will produce different results with different subjects, but sitting by candlelight with a relaxing pint, I can’t readily identify any other factor which may explain my growing discomfort.

This is, of course, the ultimate synthesis of theory and practice, and more than anything, the experience of listening to A Script For Machine Synthesis bears strong parallels to the digitally-generated screeds of text published by Kenji Siratori in the late 90s and early years of the new millennium. That is to say, it’s a concept work which, while far from enjoyable, is undeniably admirable in its audacity and its absolute commitment to explore the concept at its core to its absolute end. This is art.

 

Hecker - Script

Advertisements

Consouling Sounds – 25th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The title of Barst’s first full-length album is a reference to William Burroughs’ novel of the same title. Of course it is. Burroughs’ influence on music is immense, and where the is no direct absorption of his ideas or methodologies, musicians since the 1960s have been citing him as an influence. He remains, arguably, one of the ultimate countercultural icons of the twentieth century.

While Barst acknowledges ‘the fragmented, the transcendental and the viscerally unsettling imagery of his work’ as an inspiration point for this richly detailed sonic journey of an album, there’s also a nod to the cut-up technique devised and formalised by Burroughs and Brion Gysin in 1959. There’s logic to this. The cut-ups, both on paper and when subsequently applied to audiotape suggested immediate practical applications in the production of music, and if there was a link between the concept of the cut-ups and the work of Throbbing Gristle, it was acts like Cabaret Voltaire and Foetus who really rendered the connection a direct one.

The cut-up intrinsically connotes a hybridity, a drawing together of eclectic sources, a combining and collaging of fragments to forge a multi-layered intertext, while simultaneously providing a creative liberation, in which the creator is subservient to the material.

While Burroughs claimed to have abandoned the cut-up by the time of his final trilogy, which consisted of Cities of the Red Night, The Western Lands and The Place of Dead Roads, there was a certain disingenuousness about this: the cut-ups continued to inform his writing, albeit in a more subtle form, and with the editorial input of James Grauerholz who reshaped the works with an eye to a more commercial text. The result was a more accessible mode of writing, but one which evoked something of a fugue-like state, in contrast to the annihilative cerebral barrage of his works of the 1960s. This is perhaps the point at which Barst most readily intersects with Burroughs, in offering a work which, as the press blurb explains, sees ‘layer upon layer…fitted to build up a work of art… Cutting up sounds, and layering them from very subtle to incredibly huge.’

The album effectively has five tracks, but they’re mastered as two, corresponding with the sides of the vinyl: as such, track one consists not so much of three tracks or chapters (‘The Threshold / The Rite / The Passage’) but three movements segued together to form a longform piece. Likewise side / track two features ‘The Western Lands / The Fields’

Screeding noise fills the spaces in the rich shoegaze swirl of the first movement. The drums are muddy, partly submerged, distant amidst the maelstrom. The whole thing drifts… ‘The Rite’ is built around an insistent beat and pulsating, looped synth motif. It’s perhaps the most overtly structured, and the most overtly electronic track on the album, laying down an expansive desert groove that transports the listener to another space altogether. An immense sonic swell bursts into a multi-layered, infinitely-faceted cathedral of sound, which gives way to engine-like drones. What is this? Where are we? In the afterburn, tectonic thuds shake. A deep, murky bass warps and grinds against a decayed industrial rhythm to create a sinister, post-apocalyptic soundscape.

The moody, dark ambience of the title track melds an almost ritualistic, ceremonial spiritualism to a thumping electronic beat. Low in the mix, the vocals howl out in a barely intelligible expulsion of soul-burning anguish. Part black metal, part Prurient, devastatingly barren, it’s perhaps one of the most innovatively genre-breaking tracks I’ve heard all year. The vastness of ‘The Fields’ is an experience beyond words. The percussion hammers out hard, but low, grinding explosively but largely buried in the immense swathe of layered sound which is totally immersive. But then, the storm is over. The grace and elegance of the piano-led play-out is contrasting in the extreme. But this is beautiful music, and provides welcome respite.

The Western Lands is an accomplished work, and an incredible achievement, both conceptually and sonically. A different kind of epic.

 

 

Barst - The Western Lands

Baskaru – karu:39

Christopher Nosnibor

Within the domain of the avant-garde, there is a recurring thread of self-reflexivity, and a focus on ‘the process’ which borders on obsessive. Many artists have offered theories on the benefits of collaboration, with the practices and methods of another person facilitating fresh approaches to creative processes. William Burroughs and Brion Gysin famously cited Napoleon Hill’s bestselling self-improvement book from 1937, Think and Grow Rich, having latched onto the concept of ‘the third mind,’ whereby the coming together of two individuals brings forth an unseen collaborator in the form of a third, superior mind. Needless to say, collaboration is not for everyone, but Laurent Perrier is very much an advocate, as this release which finds him working in collaboration with three notable artists, namely Francisco Lopez, Tom Recchion, and Christian Zanesi is testament to. But all is not quite s it may seem: Perrier’s Plateforme series, of which this is the second release, offers an alternative interpretation of what collaboration means, with the tracks each standing as what he terms a ‘one-way collaboration’.

The idea works on the basis that Perrier takes sounds provided by his ‘collaborators’ and uses those sounds – and nothing else – to create the pieces. This approach naturally pieces. Raises questions around the nature of the relationship between the artist and the ‘text’ (in the broad sense of the term). Is Perrier the architect, designing and constructing the tracks from raw materials? Is he even the composer? Or do these pieces represent remixes of unmixed material? To what extent can the ownership of each piece be aligned to the collaborator, and how much falls to Perrier, the one who sculpts the raw materials into something? In terms of process, one is also compelled to ask, to what extent do the ‘original’ sounds define the character of each individual artist’s work?

There is a definite sense that Perrier has worked with a strong intention to preserve the identity and integrity of each of his collaborators in these three pieces, and here I would return to Burroughs and Gysin, who claimed “A page of Rimbaud cut up and rearranged will give you quite new images. Rimbaud images — real Rimbaud images — but new ones”. This is a premise with which Perrier would appear to concur: his aim is not to vandalise or otherwise desecrate or stamp his own identity on their sounds, but simply to shape and order them. So, a collection of Francisco Lopez sounds arranged, mutated and mixed results in a nee track by Francisco Lopez, forged with the assistance of Laurent Perrier.

And it works, with or without detailed knowledge of either the work of Laurent Perrier or his collaborators, with Plateforme #2 featuring three long-for tracks which explore texture and tone in a variety of ways, and with each track displaying a distinct ‘personality’.

Francisco Lopez’s material emerges as screeding scrapes and drones, barrelling hums, crackles and slow-motion explosions, fizzing static. Harsh blasts of drilling, rumbling earthworks and abstract noise fill the air. Elongated hisses, like air escaping from valves or burst pipes and storm-force winds all amalgamate to create big, big sounds and a sense of immense space.

Hinting at vintage science fiction and horror movies, long, low, ambient drones hang and turn slowly, to be rent with shrill shrieks of treble, and blizzards of looping lasers to conjure a strange, alien landscape in sound in the Tom Recchion collaboration. Jump cuts extend the filmic analogy. Spectral tracings haunt the longest of the three pieces, with Christian Zanesi’s sounds building from a whisper to a scream; around the mid-point, the piece has evolved to a veritable tornado of sound which blasts from the speakers with breathtaking force.

 

Laurent Perrier - Plateforme 2

 

Laurent Perrier – Plateforme #2 Online at Baskaru