Minimum Function (1 of 3)

Received three items from the Rhizome.s label from Pedro Chambel. The label appears to be based in France but the envelope was posted from Portugal. His motto is “Listen first, then react…”, the exact inverse of “shoot first, ask questions later”. The spotlight seems to be on ultra-minimal composed music, with an aesthetic that calls for an incredibly stripped-down presentation. To put it another way, the covers comprise lines of typography and nothing else. The CDRs are white-faced with no information printed on them. We receive very little contextual information to guide us. As for promotional literature: zero. So, listen first it is…

First item is called Interpretations (Rhizome.s #17) with two long tracks. On (1), we seem to have two suites jammed together confusingly, played I think by Elynor Freyss and Joshua Adam Acosta. The first is Eva-Maria Houben’s composition ‘Zwischen (for two strings)’. This Wandelweiser German player has been associated with the double bass, so maybe she’s calling for some serious string scraping action for this one. Already I feel like I’m being attached to a pulley and yanked up and down a narrow chamber, or lift shaft. This piece drifts away eventually to take us into a long desolate stretch of near silence, where some tension-filled room tone is all we have for company. Is that a guitar in the distance? At some point the second suite may be kicking in – it’s called ‘Les Jours, Mon Aubépine (for solo piano)’ and is composed by Michael Pisaro, another Wandelweiser fellow who has been known to brush the nylon strings of the guitar, so perhaps that “piano” thing in the title is just a bluff to confuse one further. I think I can make out a guitar here in among deserts of voids. The further we listen, the more I feel my barge being pulled into an icy uncharted zone. Lots of empty (not-empty) silences so that the musical notes are drip-fed like water onto the forehead of the victim. The waiting produces sheer agony. But I have to admit the range of timbral changes on offer so far are pretty varied. They just take a long time to get delivered. Thirty minutes never felt so extended!

On (2), the piece is called ‘Ruzawi’ and is composed by Lance Austin Olsen. This fellow may be Canadian, may have been associated with records on the Another Timbre label, and performed sound with sheets of copper; perhaps more of a gallery artist than a musician. The piece is played by Bruno Duplant and Daniel Jones; Duplant is a French musician who came our way within living memory on his Fictions LP, a melange of field recordings and noise that was saying something about nuclear fallout. ‘Ruzawi’ is unfathomably mysterious, and contains very little in the way of unidentifiable events, but for some reason I like it better than the above escapade. Perhaps it’s because it’s just pure sound and tones and seems to have no connection to reduced improvisation or minimal free playing. Secondly it’s presented in such an inscrutable way, where something is happening but nothing is explained. Maybe that’s Olsen’s approach. After all we already have far too many people (especially creators) trying to explain themselves to the world, often doing so in only 140 characters on their phones, and it doesn’t do anyone anywhere any good. If you’ve enjoyed the recordings published on Winds Measure over the years, this ‘Ruzawi’ will appeal to you enormously. Extremely slow motor cars proceeding in the rain (or snow) and the ghost of a forgotten conversation between the drivers; a sense of enclosure, of being locked into a strange place.

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