Posts Tagged ‘Microtub’

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

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