Posts Tagged ‘Microtonal Tuba’

Bohemian Drips – BD10 – 30th August 2019

Christopher Nonsibor

January 2017: I was introduced to Microtub on receipt of their album Bite of the Orange.it prompted all kinds of tangential associations, few actually or specifically related to the album’s sonic contents. But then, that’s s often one of the great pleasures of music for me – the ideas and images it has the capacity to unlock. And while more conventional musical forms – especially lyric-orientated works – resonate on a more direct level in that sound and sentiment combine to connect with given emotional states, more abstract works have greater potential for far freer associations.

July 2019: I’m reintroduced to Microtub and reminded that I still don’t really grasp what a microtonal tuba is, and remain amazed by the idea of there being three microtonal tubas in existence, let alone musicians to play them. Because, yes, as the press release informs / reminds us, ‘Microtub is the world’s first and only microtonal tuba trio, exploring Just Intonation and the rich harmonic potential of the tuba. In collaboration with bohemian drips and Ace Tunes they bring us their new release Chronic Shift, featuring recorded material from the stunning “Großer Wasserspeicher” (large water tower) in Berlin-Pankow, mixed with analog synthesizers’.

It gets a bit technical after that: ‘Carefully recorded in binaural audio by the bohemian drips engineers, this unlikely combination of tubas and simple synth pitches provides a meditative and immersive experience, and an auditory glimpse into a truly unique acoustic space. By using Kunstkopf stereophony and the perspective of a so-called dummyhead microphone (Neumann KU-100), the acoustical scenary of the tank was captured in 3D-audio, relocating the listener into the actual recording situation’.

More usefully, we learn that ‘the title track ‘Chronic Shift’ is a rework based on the piece ‘Sonic Drift’, a Robin Hayward composition written specifically for Microtub. Not that I’ve heard ‘Sonic Drift’ to compare, or know if I’d be able discern the connections.

Still, the two pieces on Chronic Shift are yawning longform experiments in organic hum and drone that sound nothing like anything involving an actual tuba. Which is probably for the best.

BD010_front

SOFA – SOFA 555 – 13th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s no secret that I have a real penchant for what the man on the street – and most of my friends, and certainly the uncultured crets in my dayjob would brand ‘weird shit.’ Indeed, it’s fair to say that Aural Aggro’s primary raison d’être is to give coverage to the obscure, weird shit that exists way, way off the radar. It’s not necessarily that I’m being wilfully perverse: oftentimes, I will simply find that the supposedly weird shit resonates with me on some subconscious level, in the way that only music can. But then there are some releases that I appreciate because they’re plain bizarre. Muddersten’s Karpatlokke is an album that appeals on both levels, in that sonically, it’s intriguing, unusual, dark and intense, and conceptually, and in its construction, it’s utterly perverse.

‘Muddersten is a type of mudrock whose original constituents were clays’, the press release explains. Perhaps it was creative misprision on my part, but I immediately began to envisage the trappings of an obscure subgenre, a bastard offshoot of sludge metal, or a hybrid born out of crust punk. This would ordinarily make more sense, contextually, than the literal meaning which in fact applies here.

The second release to land with me in a week to feature Martin Taxt and his microtonal tuba, the instrumentation listed in the creation of this creeping compost-based composition is nothing if not unusual: Håvard Volden plays (relatively) conventional instruments, the guitar and the tape loop. Taxt, along with his microtonal tuba, contributes electronics. And then there’s Henrik Olsson, master of objects, friction, and piezo. I had to look up piezo. Precisely how one renders music from abstractions is unclear, but this strange union, which finds the trio conjure an album which is ‘all about the hydraulic’ and is preoccupied with the movement of moisture through clay and soil and its absorption by plants, is a successful one. And, for the second time in a week, I’m compelled to contemplate the line in Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ which refers to ‘vegetable love’. Karpatlokke could well be a definite soundtrack to the Aristotelean reading of the concept.

The sounds the trio produce are appropriately earthy, although by no means overtly or conventionally musical in their nature. As such, the music does not feel as if its mechanical origins are instruments as man-made as guitars, tape-loops and electronics. Although predominantly organic-sounding, there are some pretty gnarly tones to be found here: droidal, digital squeaks and bleeps ping rapidly around sharp-edged bursts of sound. Drips and groans counterpoint dark, growling rumbles. ‘Kjempeløk’ grinds out a heavy, trudging vibration, thickly abrasive. Slow-motion scrapes turn through glitchy, crackling rhythms on ‘Stjerneskjerm’, as strings bend, bow and slowly slip the sprockets of time. It’s an unsettling work, evoking slow, creeping movement and evolutionary growth, amplified: the sonic equivalent of a nature documentary shot in high-definition, with ultra-close-ups, the frames sped up and slowed down to render in the sharpest relief the brain-bendingly awesome occurrences which take place daily in the natural world, unnoticed and invisible to the naked eye.

Each track’s title refers to a plant: ‘Stjerneskjerm’ translates as ‘Astrantia major’, commonly known as ‘master wort’, and the impressive-sounding ‘Blodstorkenebb’ is in fact a composition inspired by the rather humble Geranium sanguineum, aka bloody crane’s-bill or bloody geranium. Yes, this dark, dank, swirling noise which gnaws as the intestines and churns at the cranium is inspired by a bloody geranium. Which why it’s a great, if extremely unusual, album. Well worth digging out.

 

Muddersten – Karpatklokke

Whereas many microtonal explorations manifest as tiny, pinging blips, Microtub’s Bite of the Orange is constructed using immense, elongated notes. Perhaps somewhat obscurely and tangentially, I find myself considering Andrew Marvell’s poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’, specifically the following couplet:

My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.

No, not on account of the popular tumescent implications most readings of the lines offer: I’ve even explored the mirthsome connotations of Marvell’s emerging bulbous courgette during undergraduate seminars in an attempt to draw some kind of engagement from a room of late teens who really couldn’t give a crap about Elizabethan poetry, but that’s not why Bite of the Orange evokes Marvell in my mind. Instead, I’m drawn by the poem’s allusions to the Aristotelean connotations of a love borne out of the vegetative soul, as commented on at length by Lawrence Burton in his magnificent Anatomy of Melancholy, one of my favourite 17th Century texts (largely, it’s true, on account of Burton’s magnificent language). Burton makes a connection between the ‘vegetative soul’ and ‘natural love’; a love which is a slow-growing, evolutionary condition.

Granted, an orange is not a vegetable, but, like this slow-growing love, Bite of the Orange moves at an almost imperceptible pace, organic. Microtub’s slow, microtonal explorations require patience, and it’s only through time that a true appreciation of its qualities and its sonic depths can be truly appreciated.

The three tracks seep into one another, both in terms of the structures of their titles, and sonically. ‘Violet Man’ ventures into the dark, its low rumblings feeling their way through subterranean territories and poking the deepest recesses of the mind, and the three long-firm tracks combine to offer a full, panoramic perspective on the nuanced tonalities three microtonal tubas can create.

Bite of the Orange is not an album of action. It is an album which unfurls, creeping, revealing its aspects in greater detail the more closely one listens.

Microtub