Death By Process

Here is the latest release from the Berlin label Emitter Micro. EM008 is a cassette tape by Hopek Quirin and it’s called Passing Tubes / Röhren. We have noted previous output from Emitter Micro in the past, and even if we haven’t always connected directly with the severe sounds on offer, we do at least admire the principles of the label, which seems determined at all costs to adhere to a very austere, minimalist aesthetic. This is reflected in the packaging as much as the choice of music or sound art. Their motto, “a reduced label of sound and more” (all printed in lower-case, natch) may be telling us at least two things – (1) the label itself is reduced, not just the recordings they issue, which suggests they operate on a shoe-string and run their office from a matchbox; and (2) they want this equation to be somehow more than it already is. This could be one of those complex psychological riddles set by someone who wants to have it both ways; it’s minimal, but it’s also maximal. For some reason I’m taking this as a personal challenge to the semantic half of my brain. It seems to be saying something a shade stronger than “less is more”.

As to Hopek Quirin and his antics on the tape, I found it quite a struggle to concentrate for more than a few seconds on his hopelessly broken piece of sound art, one where no moment of sound connects to another. He stresses the process and materiality of its creation to the exclusion of all else, including ideas, or beauty. His notes describe speakers, tubes of different gauges, sound systems, remixes, and environmental sound, as if the assembling of these diverse elements had a self-evident value. To add to my woes, he insists that we turn the volume knob so that it’s “as low as surround noise level”, making this point emphatically with an exclamation mark. I’m feeling so beleaguered by now that I take exception to having orders barked at me this way. Does he mean we’re suppose to gauge our own surrounding sound while we’re playing the tape in some way, and make adjustments accordingly? How? Why? Isn’t the composer / performer supposed to be doing this for us?

Hopek appeared before on this label as part of a trio with Anton Mobin and Kris Limbach. The piece before us actually began life in 1986, when he recorded it on cassette tape on one of those old-school Tascam Portastudio devices. He then used the recording as part of a sound installation, which is where the process art and the acousmatic aspects start to kick in. I assume today’s record is a document of the above process. Overall, probably not as horrifying as I’m making it sound, but I find myself impatient with what I perceive as a severe lack of content, ideas, or meaning, and the expectation that somehow it’s up to us listeners to make up the shortfall. There isn’t much aesthetic pleasure to be gained from this disjointed and anonymous noise. Something of an endurance test; but I hope things will improve in the future. Received 6th March 2017.

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