Posts Tagged ‘Simon Whetham’

Crónica – Crónica 103 – February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Simon Whetham has a considerable history of taking sound recordings – often environmental sounds – and working them into something unrecognisable, by means of various sonic and software mutations. Against Nature emerged from an exploration of what Whetham describes as ‘errors and failures’, using ‘badly built microphones, over-burdened amplifiers, motors driven by sound impulses, misbehaving software and objects toppling’ as part of an organic process. The album is in many ways accidental in nature, the end product determined more by the material than the artist. It could be seen, in some respects, as a project of artistic self-erasure. This album may bear Simon Whetham’s name, but his function here is as a conduit, more of an editor than an author of the work.

Against Nature may only contain five tracks, but the tracks are both lengthy and intense. Screeding noise sustains interminably, piercing tones that aren’t drones but something altogether more serrated. Pink noise switches to white noise. Hums crackle, fizz and whizz and gradually build to immense, barrelling walls of noise that suck the listener into an immersion tank of sound. The quieter passages lull the listener’s senses, a gentle breeze and the occasional clanking of what sounds like a yak’s bell evoke almost pastoral images, before once again building sonorous, scraping tension that creeps and swells. Metallic clattering grinds like a cement mixer. Blasts of static and white noise tear through silence.

The five movements of Against Nature are not rhythmic in their formation, and are free of anything one might refer to strictly as percussion. Primarily, it’s a work of tonal exploration, as sounds bend and bow against one another, straining and generating sonic frictions, but beneath it all, there are natural – or unnatural – resonances, pulsations, which form their own subtle rhythms. And these resonate biologically, psychologically, rubbing with and against the brain-waves and gnawing away, prodding the nerve-endings and ultimately working their way under the skin.

 

Simon Whetham - Against

 

Simon Whetham Online

Baskaru – karu:38

Christopher Nosnibor

Whereas Whetham’s previous work has been preoccupied with geography, the specifics of location, his latest offering uses found sound and field recordings in a very different way. Rather than evoke particular places and experiences, What Matters is that it Matters conjures much vaguer, more abstract notions of place – or perhaps more accurately space, both external and internal.

In a world in which global digital networks render time, place and space subjective matters in many respects – geography is increasingly a state of mind – What Matters is that it Matters offers as much an exploration of a type of psychological topography and a physical one, and forges a sonic labyrinth which the listener’s mental processes amplify, consciously and otherwise.

The album sees Whetham explore forms and textures with haunting, atmospheric compositions. Waves of grainy sound gauze over trailing whistles and drones. And the crackle…. Once you’ve tuned into the surface noise, there’s no escaping it. Of course, this being a CD release, the crackle of interference that rises and falls and disrupts the smooth swell of gently turning drones isn’t real surface noise. It’s the evocation of surface noise. But this in itself is sufficient to trigger a sequence of association. The nostalgia for the vinyl age… as likely now to prompt reminiscences of listening to trip-hop releases which in turn evoke a bygone era, or otherwise provoking recollections of listening to your parent’s scratchy old vinyl and falling in love with the music of a previous generation. Equally, the crackle may call to mind a youth now long gone, and with it, a swell of disparate emotions, nostalgic and conflicting. You don’t hear these things: you feel them, in the pit of your stomach, trickling through your nervous system, twitching in the back of your mind.

I digress… but this is all about the digression, the fleeting idea that life past will forever hang in the air, occasionally needling the present time of the listener, whether welcome or not, whether invited or not. What matters is not the album per se, but the experience, the way in which it resonates: what matters is that it exists, and does resonate – almost subliminally – on a number of levels. What matters is that it’s personal, intimate, interior. It matters, and it matters a great deal.

Whetham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon Whetham Online