Posts Tagged ‘longform’

Misanthropic Agenda – 20th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ll admit, I was struck by the name when this landed in my inbox. Success! With an insane number of submission emails day, I don’t even open most, let alone play the albums attached. But then I learned that PWIS is Nathalie Dreier – who’s interesting for her visual work as well as her audio – and Dave Phillips, who’s To Death I covered last year – which deepened my intrigue. And it’s one hell of a cover, too.

Meaning What Exactly? is quite a different proposition – from pretty much anything, in truth. Presenting four lengthy compositions, it’s fundamentally an electronic album, but it’s far more than that, or anything. The title is a challenge, a query, a – what I keep hearing as a phrase in my corporate dayjob – a ‘provocation’. It comes down to ‘exactly’. The word is weighted; even without explicit emphasis, it feels emphasised, vaguely stroppy even. The addition is the lexical equivalent of a hand on hip, a raised eyebrow, a scowl, a sneer of condescension to a worker from another department who has no facts. ‘Yeah, do your research, bitch’, is what it says.

And who really knows what it means, or what anything means? Exactly. And what this album means – exactly – I can’t quite fathom. The titles conflict with the contents, at least, based on my lived experience, on my reception. They say it’s a ‘dialogue mixing treated field recordings with organic acoustics and digital sources, brought together in long trance-inducing sessions of meticulous audio de/construction and philosophical debate’. But how much of that is apparent in the end product? Well, that’ debatable.

‘Pangolin’ is otherworldly eerie: a booming drum echoes out through a shifting reverberation of spine-shaking synths. It doesn’t readily evoke aardvark-like creatures, apart from perhaps in the final minute or so when Drier’s monotone vocals are replaced by snuffling barking sounds. It’s weird, but then, what did you expect? I don’t know what I expected, if I’m honest, but probably not this. This is dark, disorientating, disturbed and disturbing, and even more challenging for the absence of context. Meaning is the end product of intent, of purpose, and there’s no clear indication of where this is coming from, meaning we’re left to face the strange with no guidance.

A grinding bass and muffled, muttering voices, whispering about fish all build to a hellish tumult of murmurs and doom-sodden low range hums and thrums, and nothing feels right. It’s awkward, and unsettling. You – certainly I – don’t really tune into the words delivered by Drier in her suffocating spoken word passages, not out of disregard or disrespect, but because all of it comes together to create a claustrophobic listening experience. Meaning What Exactly? is not an album you sit and dissect, or sit and comfortably disassemble or analyse. I find myself, instead, contemplating the meaning of meaning.

‘Us vs Us’ plunges into deeper, darker territories, with a grinding, driving bass worthy of Earth, propelled by thunderous sensurround drumming, with purgatorial howls echoing all around. It’s heavy, harrowing, and it’s that simple, tribal drum style that defines and dominates the eerie eleven-minute closer, ‘The House is Black’. The house is black and the atmosphere is bleak: the vocals are mangled and distorted and play out against a murky, fragmented, fractured backing, to unsettling effect. The beats are sparse, subdued, distant, yet taut, crashing blasts and ricochets. You make it want to stop. The clock is ticking. Your chest tightens. The nerve rise, jangling, fearful. It’s like walking through a graveyard at night, knowing there’s someone lese shuffling around nearby. Make it stop, make it stop!

A crackle, a crunch. What is this, exactly? Perverts in White Shirts don’t only excavate darker domains, but scour and gouge their way into the darker, deeper territories where tension pulls tight and tighter still. It’s the sound of trauma, of suffocation. Meaning it feels like a direct passage to the depths, meaning it’s dark, uncomfortable, like it’s almost unbearable at times. Meaning it’s good.

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A Front Recordings – AFR01

Christopher Noosnibor

A paroxysm is either a fit, attack, or sudden increase or recurrence of symptoms, or a sudden violent emotion or action, an outburst.

This paroxysm – the act – consists of Werner Dafeldecker (double bass) and Roy Carroll (electracoustic media), and between them, they forge a paroxysm – the work – which is a sustained sonic spasm consisting of two longform compositions that each extend to around the twenty-five minute mark.

This is one of those works that doesn’t really feel or sound like the sum of its parts – partly because it’s difficult to disentangle precisely what the parts actually are. Especially when it comes to ‘electracoustic media’. That’s not a criticism, so much as a passing critique: this isa collection of soundscapes forged from sounds of non-specific origin. Ominous hums and drones and scrapes and hesitant feedback loops all toss and turn together to conjure an ever-shifting expanse of amorphous, mellifluous sound. Clunks and thunks and clatters provide a percussive element of sorts, but again, these sounds are non-specific in their origins. As notes hang, quivering, or otherwise scrawl and hover around certain frequencies, the way they resonate and rub against one another becomes the listening focus. Listen closely, and some notes just nip the side of consciousness, and they’re bearable until there’s a friction against other frequencies, other rates of resonance. Upper-frequency chimes and tinkles collide with lower-end clanks and thuds, the swing of heavy bells decay slowly over shivering, shuddering extranea. It’s a slow creep, and while the sound never settles, over time one grows accustomed to the whistling, the how, and the hum.

If side two’s ‘Basalt’ contains all of the same elements as ‘Tendencies’, that’s because Paroxysm is a work that’s very much focused on detail, and progressively delves deeper into it with cumulative effect. As such, ‘Basalt’ is starker, sparser, sonically harder in every sense – but particularly tonally, and as an experience. Around the mid-point things get really dark and murky, before the percussion dominates the final minutes of slashing, crashing, difficult sounds.

And this – THIS – is the point of paroxysm. For most of the album, it feels drony hummy scrapy, but it emerges climactic, dense, a physical force that is longer merely background. It comes by stealth but hits by force. Boom. Never underestimate the subtle, slow build.

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Constellation Recordings – 12th November 2012

JOYFULTALK’s new a/v single ‘New Biology’ is the seventh entry in Constellation’s Corona Borealis Longplay Singles Series. ‘New Biology’ follows the acclaimed full album, A Separation Of Being released this past March, and includes an experimental film by JOYFULTALK’s Jay Crocker.  ‘New Biology’ is exclusive to Bandcamp and PWYC for the first week of release. JOYFULTALK’s Constellation digital discography is also on sale during this time. Proceeds from all these sales go 100% to the artist, as part of Constellation’s pandemic initiative for immediate artist support.

‘New Biology’ is an extended improvised piece with a focus on the exploration of “free” electronics.  For the past decade my practice has been working towards the construction of a portable electronic music system completely based on the principles of immediacy. I have tried to design a system where I can explore improvisations without ever being “cornered” by the system itself. A system that can be played and manipulated as easily as a guitar, saxophone, drums etc. I wanted to be able to play in time or with the absence of time to perform manipulations of stored sounds or constant recycling and reimagining of new sounds with no dead ends and only the limitation of creativity as an obstacle.

The visual aspect of the piece works along the same lines of improvisation. It is a meditation in  smudging, painting, glitching and pulsing analogue and digital strains into endless video streams of trans-configured consciousness. NEW BIOLOGY follows a loose narrative of moving from this physical manifestation of being to another. Bypassing linear time to be recast as something new.

Check ‘New Biology’ here:

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