Posts Tagged ‘Igitur Carbon Copies’

Hallow Ground – 16th November 2018

Reinier Van Houdt’s 2016 solo album Paths of the Errant Gaze was a collage of quiet, dark ambience, and Igitur Carbon Copies continues in a similar vein. The inspiration for this work is the unfinished gothic tale Igitur, a collection of texts ultimately abandoned by the author, the French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé in 1869.

Considering the fragmentary nature of the incomplete work, not to mention Mallarmé’s tendency to incorporate theoretical aspects within his practise, the appeal to an artist like Van Houdt isn’t hard to see: a classically-trained pianist who’s collaborated with artists ranging from John Cage to Charlemagne Palestine and has been a member of Current 93 since 2012, he’s long been fascinated with ‘all matters that defy notation: sound, timing, space, physicality, memory, nose, environment’. This is one of those works that could very easily inspire a full-blown essay instead of a review, and there’s a temptation to write it – but does anyone actually want that? Does anyone have the time to read it, even if I had the time to write it – and I mean properly?

To reduce the experience and reflection to something manageable, with Igitur Carbon Copies, Reinier Van Houdt presents a work of immense theoretical depth in an accessible form, although obviously these things are relative. That is to say, it’s a challenging album, but one’s appreciation doesn’t require a priori knowledge of the theoretical concepts around authorship and originality, around chance and destiny, around temporality, and the myriad contexts behind it. On the surface – a deep, dark, rippling surface as it may be – it’s a dark ambient work littered with muttered speech. Beneath that surface, there’s a lot going on. And so what Van Houdt presents is in no way a carbon copy, but a corrupted, adapted interpretation of Igitur. And so begins the journey through the stages of copying and alteration, a question which lies at the heart of postmodern textual interrogation, and William Burroughs’ novel Cities of the Red Night. Text mutates. Even a carbon copy is a copy: it is not an original and therefore different.

The eerie and the uncanny reverberate around every shadowy corner of the album’s ten compositions, some of which are but the briefest, most fleeting sonic experiences, starting with the 40-second opener, ‘Annunciation’, which begins with dank and distant rumblings which expand into turning ambient tones, before segueing into ‘An Empty Set’ in a blast of static that lasts but a fraction of a second but completely fractures the flow.

Drawing source material from Mallarmé – revised by Van Houdt, and read by David Tibet in his best monotone – there is a distinct sense of narrative about Igitur Carbon Copies, however disjointed. The vocals are treated, albeit subtly, to render them with a certain trembling reverb that adds a disquieting edge. And there are extended passages that rumble and undulate, a simmering sonic soup. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and nor does it need to: it creeps around on the peripheries of the senses and pokes at the psyche almost subliminally. The effect, then, is difficult to define, but it’s nevertheless something that happens. One traverses Igitur Carbon Copies in a certain state of somnambulance and bewilderment. But one definitely traverses it, and its effects are definite.

AA

Reinier Van Houdt – Igitur Carbon Copies

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