Relative Memory (ABSINTH RECORDS 022) is the unusual team-up between Jealousy Party and Nicolas Wiese, released on Absinth Records and which arrived here 19 July 2012. Nicolas Wiese is the Berlin based multimedia artist, whose excellent electro-acoustic compositions we noted on Living Theory Without Anecdotes, a record characterised by its ingenious approach to sampling, recycled sound, and reprocessing. Evidence of the same techniques abounds on Relative Memory, so clearly Wiese is a past master of this studio method.
Jealousy Party are three Italian loons from Florence who do a live improvised set. I call them “loons” based mainly on the unprepossessing photo of them where they’re grinning in a manic fashion, and the fact that they belong to something called the Burp Enterprise collective. I tend to mistrust art movements that liken the act of creation to bodily functions, but heaven knows it’s a trope that’s old as the hills. Their shtick is Mat Pogo doing his rather silly scat-singing and Edoardo Ricci playing a rather ordinary bunch of fluid saxophone riffs. I suppose the most interesting active ingredient is WJ Meatball, a DJ who plays back pre-recorded elements (sometimes recordings of Jealousy Party themselves) and does a form of live sampling of their utterances and woodwind toots. In fact it involves live editing, cutting, and mixing too. She thinks of this as a system, and calls it the “JP Set”.
Right there you’ve got the common ground they share with Wiese – live sampling. He did some live sampling-playback stuff in the studio too, but freely admits – tantamount to confessions of a control-freak – that most of his work on this record was done alone, after the fact, where he “takes apart and reconfigurates mostly everything played”. We’re thus hearing, I suppose, an exceptionally complex construction of noises, and it’s impossible to determine who is contributing what or by what means. The helpful sleeve notes summarise this as “the focussed relativity of self-quotation in a musical frame that is never 100% improvised and never 100% fixed”.
I don’t care much for Jealousy Party’s contributions to this, and even if they are regarded as “one of the most significant creative music units in Italy”, I find something fundamentally crass and corny about their work. The vocalist in particular comes across as a bad Elvis impersonator, and the sax player feels like he’s warming up for a third-rate Motown covers band. However, there’s much to admire and enjoy in Relative Memory, and the techniques involved are technically quite pleasing; at his strongest, Wiese does indeed add several degrees of sophistication and nuanced layering to the tracks, much like the “imaginary architecture” he is clearly capable of composing as noted on the Corvo release above. In doing so he draws out a certain subtlety which Jealousy Party alone might not be capable of. He’s also acting as a once-removed collaborator with WJ Meatball, by working in sympathy with her technique.