Received these four CDRs from the small label Every Contact Leaves A Trace, in fact the very first four items in their catalogue…they arrived together January 2014…for some reason I am expecting to hear the sort of ultra-minimal non-music that you have to strain your ear-lids to get anywhere near it, the micro-organisms of aural impossibility hopping about like trained fleas in a circus. This prejudice may not be borne out however. What is first noticeable is the quirky packaging, which goes out of its way to refuse the use of glue. Each CDR is wrapped up in a folded artwork with additional inserts, the credits and information printed on clear acetate, and the whole thing is clipped between two pieces of embossed cardboard, the sort of coarse cardboard they use in the supermarket for packaging six eggs. When I say clipped, I mean a bulldog clip. No glued seams anywhere. It’s like a stationer’s wet dream…a toasted sandwich of CD packaging…
First sandwich to be spun is by Ignacio Agrimbau. His release Anatomy of the Self Vol.2 – Decay, Corrosion and Dust (a winning threesome if you want to endear yourself to a colony of wood-boring beetles) hears him playing the broken Duduk in a highly effecting manner. A duduk is a reed instrument associated with Armenia. He also plays other odd instruments, such as the “baby Cajon” and the “broken skin drum used as raft zither”. If you consider for five minutes what such performances might possibly entail, the visual images that spring to mind could be quite mind-jiggling, and clearly confirm that Mr Agrimbau is no conventional player. And just wait until you hear his music. The puzzling mix of intense percussion and non-stop reedy wailing he produces is like a version of “ethnic” music to be sure, but it’s so radical it feels like a lurch back into time several thousand years ago to hear the playing of our primordial forefathers, under a huge primordial sun. The last track, the 30 minute ‘We Have Come Here To Lose Control’ is more readily identifiable as modern experimental music, though; here, all three instruments are deployed alongside field recordings of a soccer crowd and scenes of street violence, with bizarre silences and minimal electronic tones. An oddly unsettling chilling feel descends upon me as I endure this one. If his intention is indeed to perform an anatomical dissection of the human frame, as his title strongly suggests, then he goes about his work in a weird, oblique way, and reveals unexpected answers about mankind’s corporeal shape with his scientific delvings.
The next monster is a split work…first half of the entertainment is the double bass work of Dominic Lash, in a performance dubbed ‘Real As Any Place You’ve Been’, including some ‘intrusions’ by Kino. Again we might think we’re in for some acoustic improvisation, since a musical instrument long associated with free playing is involved, but it appears Senor Lash – who is feared throughout Mexico on account of his merciless use of the “El Latigo” – is more concerned with making sonic journeys into the land of Insufferable Pain and back again, as he saws and bows his instrument with intent to set up powerful, foreboding drones and swoops. As about as anxiety-inducing as anything you’d undergo in real life, assuming that for you real life takes place under the watchful eye of a vengeful giant armed with a metal club. Actually not as harsh as I may be making it appear; at the end of his one-and-twenty minutes, you come away feeling that you’ve heard a very lucid statement in essay form, and clearly expressed. Lash is a fine fellow and I’m pleased to see he worked with the mysterious and underheard Oxford Improvisers for ten years, has studied the work of Derek Bailey (quite possibly in an academic context) and has played with Tony Conrad – a role for which he would seem to be eminently qualified, given that we often associate Conrad with highly severe and testing violin tones.
Will Montgomery occupies remainder of the disc with his ‘Thames Water Live’…Monters adopts a very measured, programmed approach to his minimal composition / performance work here, using field recordings (of the river, natch) only as a starting point for a series of actions, which ends up as a performance “with additional materials” here captured at a gallery in Southampton in 2012. Must be he’s pretty keen on investigating the old H2O as a sound source, if his 2005 water blinks release is anything go by, but considering that water is the basis of all life then we can’t fault his selection in this regard. I seem to recall his earlier work on that release – and on his half of a split LP with Robert Curgenven for Winds Measure Recordings – as being extremely testing and difficult, but this particular outing is rather satisfying…a varied blend of source sounds / processing mixing together in very natural ways, to produce not-unpleasant water-like sensations. His light-touch interventions here do much to enhance the experience, without compromising the purity of the content. I’d better stop now as I feel I’m starting to write advertising copy for bottled water, which I’m sure is the last thing that’s needed.
Well, that’s all for now. I’ll visit the other two releases another day.