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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Our top records of 2010 part 1






Ryu Hankil becoming typewriter [Taumaturgia] cd-r

A recording featuring an interesting compositional use of silence. The middle of three tracks has the unsettling title ominous motel room but is in fact a short duration of digital silence. Well, motel rooms generally are usually pretty ominous or at least nearly all of the ones I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in have been. Should we imagine we are alone in a motel room when we listen to this disc? Or is the recording of an unusually quiet motel room? Or was the track of digital silence recorded while Hankil was staying in the motel, or perhaps digital silence makes Hankil think of motel rooms...?
The first track; various accidents by vibrating speakers with 3 interconnected clockworks, spends its first half treading quite gently with scatterings of electro-acoustic sounds nicely paced, spidery in parts; trebly and mid mannered. Then around the halfway mark we are suddenly treated to what sounds like an oily robot fish leaping out of the water and flapping around on the bottom of our boat. This is Hankil’s trademark clockworks at full pelt. Five or six minutes of this robotic popping noise gives way to high pitched sine waves joined later by more random clockwork activity. Toward the end, the interplay between the mechanical soundings and multi-part high frequency sines/feedback is compounded by the addition of some mid range crackling. I’m really not sure how this was produced and as the only information we are given is the track titles themselves I shall not speculate further.
The second track; various accidents by vibrating speakers with interconnected mechanical clock parts is more robust in terms of demonstrating a broad range of sounds that the set up is able to generate. And it is more aggressive, too. Hankil includes a small amount of melodic information near the end of this much shorter piece. I think its apt to describe Hankil’s sounds as “information” as the dense clusters seem made up of far more than the sum of the parts. It’s like he is attempting to transmit data rather than compose music.
Its worth noting that the beautiful pen and ink drawing of a typewriter-headed figure sat on the edge of a bed in a motel room on the sleeve of this release was drawn by Hankil.
http://www.taumaturgia.com/

Michael Pisaro, Greg Stuart a wave and waves [Cathnor] cd
This has got to be one of my favourite pieces of music at the moment. Composed of many, many short recordings of Greg Stuart playing “...anything as a possible percussion instrument”, and made up of three sections; Part 1: A world is an integer, four minutes of digital silence and Part 2: A haven of serenity and unreachable. Michael Pisaro has cooked up a pretty complex and refined idea, realised by Greg Stuart whose extremely hard work he put into its realisation I don’t envy one bit. Based around the concept of the wave form, Part 1 emulates the sound of waves by “gradual accumulation and subtraction of sounds”. Part 2 is a rigorous and precise construction of one hundred wave events each of which “...last thirty seconds – there is a ten second overlap from one wave to the next”. So, to construct all this, Greg Stuart has seemingly spent a hell of a lot of time in front of his laptop. God help him if he edited it all down on analogue tape. No, that’s crazy. Who would do such a thing in this day and age? The effect of all this micro-recording and programming reveals a stunning composition where the music is heard without the albeit impressive technical aspects intruding. In terms of dense micro-sound, this is firmly in the same category as a live performance by John Wall I witnessed a couple of years ago where the detailed grain of the music captivated me entirely. All quotes are taken from the sleevenotes by Michael Pisaro.

Daniel Jones when on and off collide [Cathnor] 3” cd

Although Daniel is an improviser, (see his past and present activities with Loris, Tierce, Jez riley French, David Papapostolou and myself), whose primary instrument is turntable, this short piece actually strikes me as almost composed so controlled and deliberate is his delicate touch. The piece appears to be loosely structured in three parts; simply put: (what sounds to me like) turntable motor rumble followed by crackly voltage followed by more varied sounds possibly derived from the turntable mechanism itself. There is an interesting compositional use of silence bridging each of the segments, and the fidelity of the recording is very high so that at a reasonably loud volume the listener becomes enveloped in the low end material while those mid-point voltage crackles take on a surprising, almost physical aspect in the room. They made me jump on the first couple of listens and that’s a good thing. The duration suits the material very well, with good pace and balance that keeps the listener involved. Possibly this is thanks to the editing credited to Daniel’s colleague in Loris, Patrick Farmer. I would say that this release fits in well with the other titles in the Cathnor catalogue, (I’ve been a fan of this label since the Mimeo Sight release), thanks to its quiet presence and Daniel’s skilful and unusual use of turntable as sound source.

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