Posts Tagged ‘Electroacoustic’

Anticipate Recordings – 17th March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The cover art gives little to nothing away, but at the same time, it’s perhaps a remarkably accurate representation of the blurring, blending overlays of contrasting tones and textures which define the ephemeral pieces which form the abstract picture which is A Passage of Concrete.

The album pitch details how A Passage of Concrete ‘ebbs and flows across an electroacoustic narrative of fragmented memory tethered to the present moment, unravelling movement, location, distance in a story that cares about place as both texture and emotional notation. Honig’s sense of place and the way he utilises it is disparate and varied, from field recordings made in busy streets, to parks and empty apartments, via high-ceilinged spaces. One might say that  Honig is preoccupied with both sonic and psychological reverberations and resonance, and that A Passage of Concrete represents the coalescence of these things.

Scratchy and distant shuffling scrapes, flickering, arrhythmic beats provide the backdrop to a sparse delicate acoustic strum on ‘Apartment Workshop’. Steady, pulsing beats pin down the extraneous sonic ripples and segments of ambient audio captured in bustling crowds, while ‘Forest of Refractions’ wraps droning organ undulations around a glitchy beat. The mellow keys which radiate dappled light on the two ‘Fugue State’ pieces are pleasant but innocuous, and while ‘dark’ notes resonate across bouncing beats over the album’s duration, it’s not easy to get a handle on. Yet for all that, it’s not an album which possesses the deep draw of emotional engagement.

While the album’s fourteen tracks, many of which are fragmentary, and a number of which are but sketches of around a minute in duration, are exercises in the vague and the transitional, the percussion, fluid as it is, provides a certain solidity to the compositions in structural terms. The effect is to give A Passage of Concrete a greater sense of tangibility than an album which is purely abstract and ambient. As such, its capacity to connect with and conjure from the listener’s memory is reduced. It lacks that essential, if evasive and indefinable quality of being haunting and evocative. Ezekiel Honig may be a master at conveying his own mental geography, but A Passage of Concrete lacks the abstraction required to render it universal. So where do you go?

On ‘A Slow Expansion,’ the classic evocation of nostalgia, the crackle of a worn vinyl groove fleetingly emerges. I can’t be drawn. The crackle track, the ultimate cliché of nostalgia, has become Vienna: it means nothing to me, and stands as nothing more than a signifier of ersatz nostalgia. It no longer holds any emotional resonance.

A Passage of Concrete is not a bad album by any means. In fact, it’s an extremely interesting album, but one that’s difficult to appreciate on anything but an artistic or musical level. Sonically, there’s no questioning the accomplishment of the material on display. But to measure the extent to which Honig succeeds in his goal is entirely subjective: what will resonate with one individual won’t touch another. But at its best, music transcends everything: sound transcends language and sound attains absolute universality. A Passage of Concrete fails to achieve this ultimate goal of connecting the listener’s psyche through abstraction, because it feels somehow prescriptive. Honig’s structures steer the listener in the direction of his headspace rather than providing a conduit for the listener to interact fully by exploring their own. The end result, then, is a pleasurable listening experience, but one which lacks the capacity for full immersion and to truly move the listener.

Ezekiel Honig - A Passage of Concrete

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Edition Beides – beides 2 – 9th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Why am I enthralled by a deep, churning low-end rumble that sounds like a slowed-down washing machine with pops that sound like a ping-pong ball being smacked around? What is it that’s so compelling about a distant sound that may or may not be a sustaining guitar that suddenly breaks into ear-shattering strains of feedback? It’s uncomfortable, it attacks the senses. Perhaps it’s a deep-seated defect which lurks like a parasite in my psyche, and gnaws away invisibly, driving me toward audio works which induce discomfort, craving a psychologically twisted, deviant form of amour. Perhaps I’m just wired differently. The answers to these questions do not lie in Paul Wirkus’ ‘psycho-acoustic essay’, described as ‘a consciously digital ambient album between laptop electronica and field recordings’, which is forged with ‘mental strolls… are combined with real strolls through the green fields of the summery, loud city on the search for security, calm, and a chance to exhale’.

The four tracks on Discours Amoureux offer little sense of comfort, of respite, of security or calm. In fact, it’s a fairly dark and oppressive work from beginning to end, although a sense of exploration, of discovery, does still linger in traces in the corners of the uncomfortable, claustrophobic sonic spaces created by Wirkus. There’s something reluctant, grudging about Wirkus’ stance in relation to his art, and just as there’s little sense of concern for the listener’s reaction to it, there’s equally little sense of context or framing.

Welcome to 1982. I can only assume, in the absence of information, that the track’s title – and the titles of the other tracks – are dates. This first track on Discours Amoureux is in the same kind of difficult noise field as early Whitehouse (although not nearly as trebly and harsh as their work of this time), Prurient, and Merzbow, and as such, evokes the spirit of the emerging underground scene of power electronics as it was in 1982 or thereabouts. Or maybe not. Nevertheless, it’s abrasive and disturbing. The origins of the sounds are unclear, and the sleeve divulges precisely nothing beyond the artist’s name, the album title, record label and track listing. But there’s an organic feel to the slowly-evolving layers on the individual compositions. From the amorphous, shimmering wall of sound emerge moments of outstanding beauty, towering, glistening…. Yet still rough-edged, rusting, with a sufficiently abrasive surface as to scour the senses.

‘1499’ is more overtly electronic. At its foundation, the piece explores resonating notes ringing against one another, the undulating pitch creating a strangely harmonious melody. Incidental clatters and clangs – spanners against scaffolding, the chank of glass – interrupt the flow, and the notes increase in pace and the mellowness gradually is lost to rising tension and ultimately, echoes into the void of a sea of static.

The more overtly ambient ‘2016’ takes the form of a sound collage, with found sounds and field recordings assembled over random percussion and multitonal hums and drones. A gloomy, dense atmosphere descends, encapsulating in sound the long shadows which have cast themselves over the world during a year marked by catastrophic political, economic and humanitarian events. Back to a golden age, and much happier times: 1888. The year in which the great blizzard hit the US, Jack the Ripper began his notorious spree, and the first (known) recording of classical music was made, is represented by a long, sonorous, humming drone, its surface distorted with crackling, clicking. It seems reasonably apposite, intentionally or otherwise. Distant voices, slow, warped, intimate a dark spirituality and an even darker future.

What kind of perverse amour is this? How do Wirkus’ sonic explorations move you? Discours Amoureux is an uncomfortable, unsettling experience which speaks of a dark love, a brutal and torturous love, a love which causes pain, physical and psychological. Yield to it.

 

Paul Wirkus – Discours Amoureux

Bocian Records – BC-AAJ

Christopher Nosnibor

As the title suggests, this is a three-way collaboration between Swiss composer Antoine Chessex, French purveyor of electronica Jerome Noetinger, and UK experimental ensemble Apartment House. The two long-form instrumental tracks were recorded live in 2014 and 2015 at Café OTO in London.

The sheer density of the sound of ‘Plastic Concrete’ from the very outset is astounding, a force as much physical as sonic. String skitters and strikes cascade amidst explosive detonations of sound. Playful horns tiptoe through bouncing double bass lines. The Apartment House musicians demonstrate just how versatile ‘conventional’ instruments can be, conjuring an array of textures and tones to forge shifting atmospheres, while Noetinger’s electronics and reel to reel tape work bring new dimensions and depths to the soundscape. Impressively, neither aspect of the instrumentation dominates: instead, electronic and acoustic exist in synergy.

A long, booming parp, resembling a ship’s horn echoes out to signal the beginning of ‘Accumulation’ Skittering, fear chord electronics and grinding, almost subsonic bass creep around before a clamour of woozy, shimmering discord takes hold. Playful passages, bordering on neoclassical in nature, offer a contrasting atmosphere to the darker, brooding passages which congeal into a heavy, amorphous sonic mass.

This is immense music. Physical music. Music that makes the skin crawl, the nerves tingle.

 

Apartment House

Crónica – 10th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

In the sphere of experimental and what one may reasonably term ‘fringe’ music, there is something of a propensity for descriptive titles. I’m quite a fan of these kinds of titles. Picking up Exercises in Modular Synthesis and Field Recording, I have a reasonable idea of what to expect. Granted, there’s no detail as to how these elements manifest sonically, I know I’m not going to get black metal or orchestral pop.

Smolders likens his process to that of the calligrapher, working with speed and precision. Operating with minimal interference or reworking once the process is under way, he is, he says, guided by the flow and the ‘here’ and ‘now’.

‘Incident at Ras Oumlil’ is constructed primarily from long, low rumbling drones interspersed with clicks and fizzy bursts of static. Voices rise; the words inaudible, but the tones of the clamourous crowd conveys a sense of agitation. Introducing an element of wordplay which reminds us that even nowhere is somewhere and is located temporally in time and space even if not geographically, ‘NowHere’ approximates the sounds of engines; trains and planes and whistling lasers. It’s evocative of something, but something so vague as to be an empty vessel from which echoes notions of travel, departure, passing through. We’re here, now, but where is here and when is now? Counterpart and companion piece, ‘NoWhere’ is barely there for the most part, with delicate chimes and rings hovering on the fringes of audibility, gradually building in its tonal range and density. The seventeen-minute ‘Up, Up and Back to 1982’ deals in sonic abstractions, shimmery analogue bleeps and twitters flit through a composition which transitions through a succession of seemingly independent segments.

These are sparsely arranged pieces, with emphasis on tone, texture and above all, space. Wibbly oscillations funnel between screeding noise, feedback and distortion. Slow, atmospheric swirls drift blankly against a backdrop off hums and crackles. At times manifesting as a sound which approximates little more than the rumble of a vinyl groove, at others bursting with sound on sound, Nowhere is attentively executed with a rare precision, navigating a route through a succession of temporo-spatial zones which linger long in the mind.

 

Jos Smolders - Nowhere

ETYMTONE – ETYM-005 – 22nd November 2016

James Wells

Takamovsky’s second solo album works on the basic premise of juxtaposing the harmonies and structures of early music with electronic sounds. Specifically, the tracks – according to the press release – revolve loosely around a bourrée from Bach’s Cello Suite No 4, BWV 1010, which also simultaneously forms the start and end of Sonic Counterpoint.’ As such, it’s both an electroacoustic work, and a work of traditional and contemporary classical music.

Thudding bass beats and clicky microbeats flicker through the spaces in the delicately picked acoustic guitar notes. Initially, the swirling synths are soft-edged, rounded with, the overall feeling is of a very organic nature, but on ‘Sun’, burrs of white static fizz and cut through the soft tones, bringing a harsher edge to things, and the medieval-sounding picked string motif accompanied by a drum ‘n’ bass rhythm and squiggling blurts and bleeps brings the notion of contrast and counterpoint prominently to the fore.

The balance and relationship between electronic and acoustic sounds swings between the tracks. It’s perhaps noteworthy, albeit in some small way, that the ‘electronic’ aspect of the compositions is limited to beats and extraneous noise, and as such, the separation between the two worlds is rendered apparent in Takamovsky’s approach. ‘Running in the Background’ is the first and only track to feature vocals, and consequently stands out as something of an oddity – but then again, vocals and lyrics provide a counterpoint to instrumental works, so perhaps it works in context of the theme. The final track, ‘D.C’ is a deep, fuzz-tines swirl of dense, overloading semi-ambient noise, a purely electronic revisioning of the bourrée.

It’s interesting, both sonically and conceptually, and although it does seem that it’s not an especially original concept, or that its execution is exactly the height of innovation, it’s still not without merit.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/181293885

 

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