Posts Tagged ‘Cut-Ups’

CD Epicentre Editions EPI-2101

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s testament to his degree of innovation and influence that John Cage’s works remain a source of fascination for so many almost 30 years after his death. Few composers have reached across so many fields, let alone a composer as radical and overtly experimental. But Cage singlehandedly broke all the ground, especially when it came to exploring elements of the random, of the relationship between the performance and the audience, and of incorporating strands of philosophy into the creative process.

This recording of Variations VII is very much an unadulterated document of a specific event, best detailed in the liner notes:

Variations VII was created by John Cage to be performed at a special event, 9 Evenings, Theatre & Engineering, held from 13th to 23rd October 1966 in New York and in which a team of engineers, led by Billy Klüver, worked with ten artists from the American “avant-garde”, with the aim of enabling them to extend their exploration of the possibilities of electronics in their own art. Here is how John Cage described this piece in the programme for the event:

« It is a piece of music, Variations VII, indeterminate in form and detail, making use of the sound system which has been devised collectively for this festival, further making use of modulation means organized by David Tudor, using as sound sources only those sounds which are in the air at the moment of performance, picked up via the communication bands, telephone lines, microphones together with, instead of musical instruments, a variety of household appliances, and frequency generators. »

And so ‘Intro’ is four minutes of audience chatter, a throng of conversations, all in French, over and across one another. It may feel superfluous to some, but in so many ways, it’s integral to the experience. It not only captures the moments before the performance as it happened, but also transports the listener there, and reminds us that this is not a studio work, designed to capture some kind of perfect realisation of the piece for all time. There is no trickery or manipulation after the fact: this is a live performance, in front of a live audience, something that happened in the moment, and the moment is all there is, and the life of the piece is tied to that specific moment. And then, there is the fact that Variations VII is, effectively, about chatter.

Crackles of static, whistles and whines rent the air as the performance begins; the sound of radio dials turning, tuning in, finding – or failing to find – the right wavelength. Hums, hisses, and snippets of conversations, fragments of music. Whups and whirs, shill shards of feedback and blizzards of white noise emerge from a myriad pieces of sound, booming yawns of interference all criss-crossing over one another in a disorienting real-time sonic collage. Machines grind, babies cry, there are explosive, thunderous blasts of distortion, It’s like walking down a busy street, hearing pieces of conversation, radios blaring from cars, engines revving, and the parallels with William Burroughs’ cut-up technique, for those familiar, are clear. This replicates the experience of life in real-time, and real-time experience is not linear, but simultaneous: a plane flies overhead and you catch sight of an advertisement, and a reflection of a face in a shop window while conducting a conversation, and all around, other people conduct their own conversations…

The mechanics of it are complex and ambitious, but also typical of Cage’s approach to composition:

‘Ten telephone lines connected to the sounds of ten different locations in New York City. History has taught us that one of the first uses of the telephone at the end of the 19th century was, besides transporting voices, the live re-transmission of concert performances of opera. A few privileged listeners could therefore listen to the music in their own homes. Several decades later, John Cage reversed this, so to speak, by inviting the sounds of several distant environments into the concert venue!’

And so it is that the 1966 piece was performed live once more on August 15th, 2020 at the festival Le Bruit de la Musique. The performance lasts for an hour and eight minutes, during which time we’re subjected to a bewildering array of sounds, unconnected, disparate, all completely independent of one another, uncoordinated, random, haphazard and hither and thither. It’s a bewildering experience: not a lot happens, but at the same time, everything happens, a lot of it simultaneously. For the duration of the performance, the spell remains unbroken. For some reason that I really can’t explain, I find myself sitting, ears pricked, on tenterhooks, listening out for details. Towards the end, a blitzkrieg of overlapping extranea build to a tempestuous tumult of harsh noise that sounds like Throbbing Gristle a whole decade before their conception. And as it gradually tapers down, a cough from the audience cuts through the quiet – but it’s not quite finished. We wait, on edge.

Suddenly, there is silence.

Only when the performance ends is the tension broken.

There is a pause, a few seconds of uncertainty, before the applause breaks. There are a few whoops, but mostly, it’s polite. Enthusiastic, but polite. There is no chatter now. One suspects that having witnessed this – bearing in mind that it’s 1966 – many would have been simply stunned of vocabulary. The era may have been accustomed to all kinds of newness, all kinds of shocking, taboo-breaking art, but this…?

Variations VII hasn’t dated, and not lonely does it still sound contemporary, it remains incredibly relevant: if anything, its relevance is greater in 2021 than it was in 1966, perfectly recreating the experience of total media and sensory overload. Never mind The Beatles, here’s John Cage.

Cold Spring Records – 16th April 2021

Edward S. Robinson

William Burroughs maintained a prolific output over the course of his lengthy career, and not only in the written form, committing many hours of recordings to tape. Yet even now, Brion Gysin’s contribution remains largely overlooked, despite being not only the man who ‘discovered’ the cut-ups and introduced the idea to Burroughs, but as a long-term collaborator and an outstanding polyartist in his own right. This album devotes a significant portion of the second side to Gysin’s recordings, and goes some way to redress the balance, although one suspects the immense Burroughs mythos will mean Gysin will eternally exist as a (lengthy) sidenote.

A great many of those recordings made by Burroughs – with Gysin – have been released, and a number are almost legendary in Burroughs circles in their own right, notably the 1965 introductory collection Call Me Burroughs (re-released recently), and the collection of audio experiments released in 1981 on Throbbing Gristle’s Industrial Records as Nothing Here Now But the Recordings.

Now, the last time I reviewed a Burroughs release, Let Me Hang You, back in 2016, I copped some flak from certain quarters of the online community of Burroughs fans and experts for having failed to spot that what was pitched as a ‘new’ recording excavated from the archive was in fact a previously-released recording of Burroughs with new music. My bad, as they say: I’d failed to fully research all aspects of my 1,400-word critique. Like The Who, I won’t get fooled again.

The liner notes for this vinyl-only release contextualise as follows: ‘Rare recordings of beat/cut-up writers and artists William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Comprises the complete recording of Burroughs reading live in Liverpool in 1982, plus performances by Gysin of a selection of his permutated poems, as well as home recordings made by the pair in Paris in 1970. All recordings are taken from original tapes in the British Library collection.’ If ‘rare’ suggests unreleased or otherwise incredibly difficult to find, it’s worth noting that this exact track listing was released on CD, with a running time of sixty-six minutes, in 2012 by the British Library on its own label under the title The Spoken Word, credited to William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin and is available via Discogs for a tenner. The cover image is also the same as the British Library release. That said, of all the Burroughs CDs I own, this isn’t among them, and I’ve never seen a copy or heard the majority of the material, and in many ways, this is as much about the artefact as it is about the material, and if the title seems a little lacking, at least it’s descriptive of the contents.

The Live in Liverpool recording is an interesting one, recorded as it was the night after Burroughs’ reading in Manchester as part of The Final Academy tour, where Burroughs featured alongside Cabaret Voltaire, Psychic TV, and 23 Skidoo, as well as screenings of the experimental movies Burroughs made with Gyson and Anthony Balch. The Manchester Hacienda performance was filmed, but only edited highlights made it to the ‘Final Academy Document’ released in 1983 on Factory subsidiary IKON, and re-released on DVD by Cherry Red in 2002.

However familiar you may be with Burroughs’ voice, the first few minutes of playback on a recording has an impact. No-one else sounds like Burroughs: that perfectly-enunciated drone – well-spoken, slow, deliberate – not a drawl as such, just a flat, paced rhythm with unique intonation and timbre just hits you somehow. And so it does again as that voice echoes across the decades from c.1963 on the first piece, ‘The Beginning Is Also The End (Excerpt)’, also credited elsewhere by its opening line, ‘I am not an addict, I am the addict’. Cracked, as dry as parchment, the voice summarises one of the leading themes of his work, particularly his most famous novel, Naked Lunch.

The Liverpool set opens with a reading from the foreword from his recently-completed but as-then-unpublished novel The Place of Dead Roads, where he outlines the world view that divides the population into Johnsons and shits. Obviously, back in 1982 he could not have predicted the rise to power of a shit called Johnson. The performance finds Burroughs – then aged sixty-eight in fine form – sprightly, energetic, and engaging, and demonstrating precisely why he was in demand as a spoken-word performer during his later career. He’s not only a great performer – clearly well-rehearsed, he doesn’t fluff a line, and his timing is impeccable – and entertaining, but he’s also funny, the tongue-in-cheek humour perhaps translating better via the medium of spoken word than on the page. The lively characterisations are delivered with gusto, and the audience response speaks for itself. You didn’t have to be there to appreciate this, but is certainly makes you wish you had been. Touching on smallpox and ‘anti-vaccination cults’, we’re once again reminded of Burroughs’ prescience.

Gysin’s voice – also well-spoken, but distinctly English and sounding for all the world like a 1950s newscaster as he advocates trying cut-ups for yourself to see the words ‘gush into action’ – contrasts with Burroughs’, and the audio quality of ‘Cut-Ups Self-Explained’, recorded between 1960 and 1962 but which would not see the light of day as a text until 1978 on the publication of The Third Mind, is somewhat muffled. But as an archival recording, it’s absolute gold. It’s hard to really know what’s going on during ‘I Am This Painter Brion Gysin’, and it sounds like the scraping of a marker against a wall-mounted pad. You feel as if you’re only getting half the story.

But then the sequence of ‘pistol poems’ is something else: bewildering, baffling at times they are best appreciated as sound, and works rather than poems hearing Gysin work through the permutations of ‘I’ve Come To Free The Words’, ‘No Poets Don’t Own Words’, ‘Kick That Habit Man’ and ‘I Am that I Am’ is revelatory (the latter featuring some wild pitch-shifting and delay / echo effects), although his delivery of ‘Junk is No Good Baby’ is simply hilarious. The layered cut-up experiment of ‘Calling All Reactive Agents’, which featured on the Break Through in Grey Room album on Sub Rosa in 1986, is also a remarkable example of rudimentary sampling and looping a fill two decades before the start of the real electronic revolution which saw the likes of Cabaret Voltaire and Foetus advance the principles in a musical context.

The four short Burroughs tracks that close off the album are scratchy experiments in multi-tracking that might not sound like much now, but in context, they provide essential insights into recording history.

As such, while this release provides no material which hasn’t been circulated before, it does bring a remarkable collection of material back into focus, and perhaps to a new audience – and of course, on a format that previously wasn’t available. For that experience of sitting down and concentrating, vinyl is hard to beat, and this is a release worth digesting at leisure.

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Dret Skivor – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Recently-launched Swedish label Dret Skivor has a fairly broad remit in its commitment to being ‘Locally focussed but stretching out to droneheads, noiseheads, ambientheads and weirdoheads across Scandinavia’. Stylistically, it’s pretty much a case of anything goes as long as it’s not remotely mainstream – but that certainly doesn’t mean that anything that’s vaguely accessible is off-limits, and Fern’s Inhibitory Shortcomings, described as ‘is a minimalistic digital multi-tracked adventure’ isn’t unpleasant or overtly challenging to any ear that’s accustomed to alternative electronica.

This set has something of a 90s vibe initially, a woozy wash of electronics, cracking static, and sampled dialogue and horns dominating the eclectic cut-up that is ‘in´ros50’. As such, while inspired granular looping, FM and different sampling techniques. AS such, while inspired by ‘the avant-garde music produced by the San Francisco Tape Center (among others) during the 1960’s’, William Burroughs’s tape experiments, as filtered through the prism of albums like Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales, produced with The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, also very much seem to inform the sonic collage pieces on offer here.

‘digi´al_r3alm pt1’ and counterpart ‘digi´al_r3alm pt2’ combine clacking, clattering tonal-based percussion with obscure oscillations and a static crackle like a downpour of rain: the latter drags down into gloomy, eerie atmospherics with a hesitant bass throb underpinning insectoid skitterings and dank sloshing washes that slop back and forth listelessly.

It’s a solid drum-based percussion that dominates the beginning of ‘dr3´_0032’ before the tape starts spooling backwards and everything gets sucked back towards it source.

None of the pieces are particularly long – only ‘digi´al_r3alm pt2’ exceeds four minutes – but each is rich in atmosphere and texture, packing in a dense array of sounds that collide against one another, bouncing off the wall of dark subterranean caverns of the mind to conjure some unsettling images. Flittering tweets and scraping squeaks abound, as do dripping sonic droplets that splash into spacious reverberations.

Closer ‘ou´ros51’ perhaps feel the most dislocated and dissonant of all of the compositions, a slow, decaying loop of an analgesic trip-hop beat and blooping laser sounds drags on repetitively, gradually slowing the senses to a slightly disorientated fog of drowsiness.

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Mamka Records – 3rd December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Just when things threaten to be getting a bit safe and predictable, with many musical artists having found ways of working around Covid restrictions to record remotely, release digitally and promote by means of performing on line or otherwise streaming shows, the ever-restless Maja Osojnik manages to do something truly different and innovative.

The third release on her recently-established Mamka Records is far, far more than just another digital single, and it’s not just about the music, either: it’s about both art and artefact, and forms the very fabric – literally – of an exhibition as well.

With Matija Schellander, Osojnik is Rdeča Raketa, and for this project, they’ve teamed up with author Natascha Gangl and evolved a genre unto themselves, in the form of the ‘sound comic’ (or beautifully evocative ‘Klangcomic’ in German). The concept – whereby, as with comics, ‘where words and images merge into one another, here it is the spoken word and sound which blend together.’ As such, this is a graphic novel in audio form, a juxtaposition of word and sound that conjures an alternative space in between, a cut-up collage of sorts.

But first, the artefact: as the liner notes explain, ‘Each individual record is its own uniquely woven and hand-printed specimen. Woven from the randomly selected strips of paper, cutting remnants from the other works’. Consciously or otherwise, this links the project into the lineage of cut-up forms that feeds through from Tristan Tzara to Kenji Siratori, although perhaps most obviously via William Burroughs. The assimilation and recycling of pre-exiting material taps into the subconscious on a level that’s difficult to explain, conjuring a strange sense of deja-vu, whereby the ghosts of those remnants and scraps of other works forge a subliminal nexus of intertextual references, reminding us of the things we know, but don’t know that we know (to paraphrase Burroughs).

‘Superandome’ very much exists within this territory of the simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, a murky electronic collage – not really a tune or a song but a shifting soundscape – but an immersive experience. Woozy, tremorous synthy wibbles oscillate and ripple and churn, while a mutter of voices gradually rises in volume and pitch until it reaches a helium-filled cacophony or babble. As with any collage, interpretation is as much about rezeptionsästhetik – essentially what the individual brings to the work as its specific meaning as bestowed upon a work by its creator. And as such, I find myself increasingly on edge, the swelling conglomeration of chatter evoking the anxiety of overcrowding and agoraphobia.

‘Super Random Me’- which is exactly the same 4:28 duration as ‘Superandome’ – is a yet more extreme collage as fragments of voices are overlaid and cut in / out over ominous rumbles, eerie drones, and random tweets. Again, it’s disorientating, bewildering – and yet equally, an encapsulation of the experience of life as lives, a clamour of voices and random sounds all at once.

Both tracks are reworked and edited from a previous work, and so such, are recycled cut-ups that in turn form a self-referential intertext which also challenge the concept of a work of art ever being ‘finished’ or a fixed definite article.

As for the art, in lieu of a conventional single launch, the record was set to be presented as a picture (built out of 110 of the 160 singles) and a video on 17th of December as an Exhibition in the Gallery Kluckyland in Vienna, and the exhibition is scheduled to run until the 3rd of January 2021 – and while at present it can only be viewed from outside, ‘Superandome / Super Random Me’ stands as a remarkable accomplishment that shows once again that it’s the artists of the avant-garde who innovate the hardest. In the year of the lockdown, we need art even more than ever.

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Industrial Coast – 20th March 2020

Please Call Me Fuck In Front Of My Friends, the latest dispatch from the prodigiously prolific Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbing, finds oodles of discombobulating discord and dissonance thrown together in a set of skewed sound collages. As such, it’s business as usual. TG’s wildly experimental approach to rendering and processing sound by means not just of founds found and myriad effects, but the (mis)appropriation of random objects means you never know what the hell you’re actually listening to: loud crackles and scratches are probably the sound of sweet wrappers and paper towels being scrunched up close to the mic. It’s supposedly Theo’s most ‘organised’ work to date, and maybe it is, but of course, it’s all relative and one man’s organised is another man’s chaos – as anyone who’s seen my office will probably appreciate.

Amp hum and scrambled tape loops twist and entwine into a massive twisty knot of noise, a clashing conglomeration of aural chaos, a crazed cataclysm of random elements thrown together in the most haphazard of fashions. This shit’s impossible to pin down.

Garbled groans and wheezes, bleeps and blasts of noise collide with static and radios being tuned detuned, and retuned; there are prolonged periods where not a lot happens, which are annihilated by brain-bending bursts wee everything happens all at once.

‘Pyrex Chalice’ is representative, with something that sounds like bottles and cutlery being used as an improvised xylophone while dustbins clatter in a city alleyway and someone close to the mic stifles the breaths of a crafty wank.

Metallic scrapes and clatters coagulate into messy improvised chimes, and there’s some kind of whispered, gallic-sounding sleaze that descends into sobbing and is backed by clattering pots and pans on ‘Massage the Scar, Five Minutes, Five Times’. If none of it makes any sense, then that’s entirely the point.

Playful but bleak and as twisted as fuck, Please Call Me Fuck In Front Of My Friends again suggest that Territorial Gobbing is one of the acts closest to the spirit of the other TG, and Genesis P-Orridge’s absorption of the influence of William Burroughs’ cut-ups. The Industrial Records release of a collection culled from Burroughs’ archives of tape cut-ups on Nothing Here Now But the Recordings marked a direct link: Territorial Gobbing very much continues the trajectory in creating music that discards linearity in favour of simultaneity.

Weird times call for weird music, and Please Call Me Fuck In Front Of My Friends is the perfect brain-bending soundtrack and exactly the distraction you need.

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ZEHRA – 6th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s always some impending doom or looming crisis facing us. As a species, we seemingly need some end of days narrative and a horizon shaded with the colours of oblivion in order to function – or maintain order. Collectively, we thrive on the drama. Given the state of the planet and of western democracy, it’s something of a shame that we’re still here, that we’ve not obliterated ourselves in a nuclear holocaust, that the earth hasn’t been swallowed by a black hole or supernova, that the millennium didn’t bring about the collapse of civilisation, that Ah Pook failed to materialise in 2012.

I’m listening to the mystical, timeless sounds of The Master Musicians of Jajouka, as captured on the colossal double album Apocalypse Across The Sky while being inundated with updates on the ever-accelerating spread of COVID-9: my office have emailed telling me that having pulled international travel a couple of weeks ago, there’s no travel between UK offices, including those within the same city, and that I’m to be prepared for enforced home-working. Could it be that where SARS and Bird Flu failed, we finally have the 21st century’s answer to bubonic plague? Time will tell, but it very much does feel as if there is indeed Apocalypse Across The Sky. Bring out your dead!

Having first come into being in 1950 and been introduced to a wider audience via the conduit of polyartist and William Burroughs collaborator Brion Gysin, The Master Musicians of Jajouka really broke into western consciousness in the late 60s, after Gysin took Rolling Stone Brian Jones to the village in Morocco – although there are now two groups purporting to be the ‘real’ Master Musicians: the one on this album, which ‘features’ Bachir Attar is the one Brian Jones encountered on his visit, when Attir’s father was at the helm. It’s ironic, as this is music that transcends all boundaries.

Apocalypse Across The Sky doesn’t sound especially apocalyptic, or radically different from any of the other recordings of the Master Musicians (in either iteration) I’ve heard that were captured since Brian Jones’ 1971 Pipes of Pan album, via the snippets captured in 1973 which appeared on the Burroughs album Break Through in Grey Room (my first encounter, and one which, with murky recordings sandwiched between various tape experiments, encapsulated the cut-up experience in a most singular way), the performances of various Joujouka musicians who performed at Gysin’s 1001 café in the mid-50s, released on One Night @ 1001 in the 90s, and on to more recent recordings.

Perhaps it’s my untrained ear: perhaps it’s that like many strains of dance and trance, which are very much dependent on the effects of repetition on both the mind and body, that much Sufi trance music sounds similar by design. But then again, when I described this music as timeless, I meant that the expectations of progression and evolution which are part and parcel of contemporary genre tropes simply do not apply here: folk music is steeped in tradition, and this is folk music in the truest sense, and therefore its very purpose is to remain unchanged and to preserve the past.

That isn’t to say all the pieces sound the same: some place considerably greater emphasis on the trilling pipes, while others are dominated by the complex polyrhythms, and Apocalypse Across The Sky does its thing and does it nicely, again capturing the experience of The Master Musicians of Jajouka. It’s hypnotic, captivating, resonant on a subliminal, psychological level.

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The Master Musicians of Jajouka feat Bachir Attar – Apocalypse Across The Sky

Pomperipossa Records – 10th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The Stilling, according to the accompanying text, is ‘a phenomenon whereby the wind speed on the planet seems to be slowing down for no known scientific reason’. Given the nature of climate change and what seems to be an increasing number of more violent storms hitting the shores of what no longer feels very much like a green or pleasant and, it seems hard to credit, but there are no shortage of articles which discuss this phenomenon which began in the 1960s or 70s, although recent months have seen reports that wind-speeds are beginning to pick up again.

For now, let’s remain with the narrative that inspired the album which ‘explores this state of discomfort and perplexion’, and locate it in a context of wind speeds sowing while the pace of life and the flow of information have accelerated exponentially and in direct proportion to wind speeds slowing over the same time span.

For their fourth album, drøne, the duo consisting of Mark Van Hoen and Mike Harding (not the Mancunian singer / songwriter / poet / comedian who was popular in the 70s and 80s), have enlisted a role-call of contributors to add strings, noise and vocals to their unsettling mash-up of samples and random sounds layered up and over one another.

They promise ‘the trademark drøne sounds of static, radio voices, field recordings, modular synthesizer and found sounds, recording chance sounds right up to the final mix add to the dynamism and energy of the album’. And the stilling very much is a mess of incongruity: car horns cut through chatter and chanting while ominous hums and tremulous top-end flickers and tweets.

‘Scream – its all you can do now. Overwhelming, scatter-gun information delivery has us confused, bowel churningly fearful and appalled at the nature of the changing times. We are biologically, psychologically and emotionally able to cope with slow evolutionary change, but struggle with revolutionary, violent distortion or mutation. This leaves us anxious and even desperate for a firmer footing.’ So says the press release, summarising the lived experience of the postmodern condition in just five lines.

With segments of monologue and dialogue chopped up and scattered, sometimes overlapping with one another as well as the musical backing, which isn’t exactly musical or backing, so much as a shimmering, shifting sonic collage, if not exactly reminiscent of William Burroughs’ audio experiments, then very much a sonic interpretation of the cut-up technique in its simultaneous representations of multiple events and perspectives. Because every moment is a moment of change and the pieces on the stilling are constructed around a continual shift, it’s disorientating by design. Scrambling the mutter lines, it’s the soundtrack to your soundtrack.

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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

Gargarin Records – gr2035 – 1st November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Something is very wrong. Ok, so there are lots of things that are very wrong, but in particular, there’s something wrong with A K Klosowski, and by the sounds of things, his audio archive. And his tape deck  – or decks, to be more accurate. Listening in 2016, one might think that whatever combo of kit constitutes a ‘kassetteninstrument’, something is awry, that the heads are worn and the tapes are chewed, with loops and samples continually playing at random, all at once.

But context is important here and the mic on this album creates digital technology by a mile. As the blurbage explains, ‘Long before digital sampling was affordable for everyone, A.K.Klosowski invented his Kassetteninstrument, a custom-made music apparatus consisting of eight SONY-Walkmen combined with a mute/demute mechanism. The outputs of the instrument could be controlled both by hand and by an automatic trigger module. In addition, a drum computer and some effect machines were fed into the circuit. This technique allowed for very intuitive and simultaneous control over the analogue tape sources.’

Eight Walkmen? That would have required some wedge back in ‘82 to ‘84 when these recordings were produced. …plays the Kassetteninstrument is perhaps an album of its time, but still holds up on every level in 2016. It’s chaos from the offset, and the whole album is a riot of snippets and sounds, bits and pieces, crushed together to create something… different.

Elsewhere, grating, mangled synth sounds and extraneous noise skrawks and clanks hither and thither, and processed beats slither and jitter beneath vocal snippets, robotix voices, whipcracks and car crashes. It’s all going on: synapse-popping, electrode-melting disco and stuttering 80s inspired electronica interfuse in an audio wilderness.

At times it’s an awful cacophony; at others, the mood is playful, while at others still, it’s darkly sinister. Bendy organs and warped tape loops, stretched and scratchy, make weird, woozy wigouts. With motorik rhythms twisted out of time, it’s like Krautrock on acid, with nods to Throbbing Gristle and Suicide, William Burroughs and Cabaret Voltaire. It’s pretty fucking cool.

 

A.K. Klosowski - …plays the Kassetteninstrument