Electric Fishsongs


Artificial Memory Trace is Slavek Kwi, a sound artist from Czechoslovakia who moved to Belgium and is now based in Ireland. Some time ago we noted his Singtra record which was released by Waystyx Records and featured the reprocessed sounds of trams in Prague. He sent us two generous parcels of his own self-released projects and later emailed to say “I am now in Newfoundland, trying to collect another underwater sounds”. There’s a press pack which expounds at some length about his recent Surroundings project, one which involves inviting schoolchildren to interact with an audio installation at St Declan’s School and thereby “awaken their artistic sensibilities”. Learning through sound. Seems to have been a significant success if the enthused remarks of children and teachers are anything to go by; and there was a concert-installation held at The National Concert Hall (Dublin) in 2009. Let’s attempt a blow-by-blow listing of the items in the bags:

  • Radio Reports I-II: radio broadcast compositions from the 1990s, including fragments of music, field recordings, and dialogue in a gentle stream of consciousness flow that is quite beguiling.
  • deve_loop: broken CDs, numerous contributors, sound-art actions performed live. Two long tracks he considers to be “audio articles”, essays about sound written in sound from 2003-2004.
  • ParaExpanzin: a complex 2005 electro-acoustic construction made of very short fragments , layers, and loops. An astonishing jumble of music, sounds and voices. Its companion piece Sonafon is something he calls a “collage of reality-particles”, which may help situate us; I’m sensing he considers his work to be as much documentary as it is art, if not more so.
  • Where The Language Might Be Born: some fragments of documentary tape brought back from a school for learning disabled children in Brussels: voices of teachers, children, workshops, desks banging about, music, percussion, from 1999-2000.
  • Surroundings: recent work (2008-09) from St Declans School. Students and teachers making music, reworked to a certain extent by Kwi in this “stereo downmix” version which I think includes some light electro-acoustic treatments and electronic filtering.
  • Tuiscintfm1: part of a radio project called Bridge Between Two Worlds, with much participation from young people with autism and asperger syndrome. Voices, voices and more voices, interspersed with baffling fragments of music and tape treatments.
  • Signals pt1_5: an audio DVD packed with over five hours of 5:1 surround music for your DVD system. Impressive collection of nature sounds involving all the usual suspects: insects, monkeys, rainforests, frogs.
  • Akvatikinsekt1: more insects and other underwater life found in the Amazon. All recordings left untransformed and presented “as it is”. Kwi is even more drawn to this form of “natural minimalism” than Francisco López. Floating logs and vegetation also get a piece of the action.
  • Organfish: a companion piece to the above, described as “electric fishsongs from Amazon”. Like the above, quite recent recordings made with hydrophones. Astonishing (albeit subtle) effects which appear to be like pure electronic music, yet are entirely produced by nature.
  • Threshold_|.delphinus.delphis:–|: fine mini-CD using sounds of marine life (dolphins and whales) again expressed through what I take to be Slavek Kwi’s characteristic low-key and unobtrusive approach.

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