Posts Tagged ‘Reinier Van Houdt’

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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Hallow Ground – HG1606 – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Reiner Van Houdt presents an interesting proposition: a classically-trained pianist who’s worked with John Cage and Luc Ferrari, he also plays in Current 93 and has worked in collaboration with Nick Cave, John Zorn and Antony Hegarty. The fact this release is on the Hallow Ground label should perhaps give an indication that this is no soft neoclassical effort – although I’m in no way criticising neoclassical music here: I’m simply saying that this dos not sit within the field, and is harder, harsher, heavier, at least in places. There are no neat melodic structures to be found on Paths of the Errant Gaze, and no instrumentation which sits within the classical bracket: this is very much an electronic album.

On the face of it, there isn’t much to this. Paths of the Errant Gaze is an album which is extremely quiet, sparse, minimal, and the detail – and the quantity of source material involved in its creation – are not immediately apparent. Just as Burroughs and Gysin theorised on the power of ‘The Third Mind’ through the act of collaboration, so Van Houdt believes the act of recording creates a ‘third ear’. And so it is that Van Houdt built Paths of the Errant Gaze from myriad recordings gathered from a near-infinite array of locations.

‘The Fabric of Loss’ creeps ominously, scraping strings like creaking doors echo in the still air as dust motes descend silently, ‘Orphic Asylum’ introduces the first semblance of rhythms, murky, clanking, developing to extended bursts of bass-end noise and a thumping, trudging beat which plots treacherously through an unnervingly dark sonic labyrinth. Even when near-silence encroaches, there remains a dark, oppressive atmosphere in the air. Sparse piano notes and a Scott Walker-esque vocal emerge briefly from the dense sonic fog on TR 5, but neither does much to orientate or ground the listener.

There is no indication of the sounds captured by Van Houdt being your common or garden field recordings – in fact, the ‘everyday objects, situations and moments’ which Van Houdt records obsessively are all but lost amidst the process of forming a sonic melange. Nor does Van Houdt utilise these soundpieces in a conventional way: one does not get a sense of Paths of the Errant Gaze existing as a collage work. Paths of the Errant Gaze is not a work which is encumbered by a sense of pretence, and nor does its theoretical or conceptual framework impinge unduly on the end product.

The ten-minute ‘Transfinite Spectre’ is an all-out sonic assault worthy of Merzbow, as laser-guided blasts crackle and fizz, top-end treble drilling directly into the brain through the ear to create maximum discomfort.

 

Reinier Van Houdt - Paths of the Errant Gaze