Coil, radiophonics, memory

Three more minimalist sound-art tapes from Philip Sulidae’s cassette label Hemisphärenokukyo. Jennifer Hor noted the first three releases in Sep 2018, where the artistes presented were Sulidae himself, the very buzzy Leo Okagawa, and the disturbing Masayuki Imanishi. Today, the spotlight falls on Jay Dea Lopez, Modelbau, and Bruno Duplant. Duplant, you will recall, is often associated with Pedro Chambel who runs the ultra-minimal RHIZOME.S net label. Like the Hemisphärenokukyo label, there’s a concern with minimal and uniform packaging to match the recondite sound art. A normalised visual look for your “product” helps to create a sense of identity, a “family” if you will.

Jay Dea Lopez’s cassette is called Pulse (HNK007) and he created it using coil pick-up recordings in Canberra and other parts of Australia. Coil pickup refers to a particular kind of magnetic transducer, which is able to translate a vibration into an electronic signal, which is why it’s been especially useful for electric guitars. Lopez is giving us the “raw” sounds of the vibration of the earth. These ten short episodes of rhythmic pulsations are utterly compelling, and one can somehow make out their very “naturalist” origins. No electronica composer, no matter how violently they hacked into their laptop, could ever produce pulsations as perfect as these. Besides the throbbing type tracks, Pulse also contains lovely humming tones that are likewise suggestive of ancient, peaceful landscapes (they pass on the very subjective impression of nocturnes). I agree with Sulidae’s observation that this tape comprises “concentrated electroacoustic precision”. It’s highly compressed and concise, and makes it a statement without any wasted moments, nor feeling the need to flab out into self-indulgent droneland. A good one. Visit Lopez’s site to enjoy a staggering quantity of published material by this Australian fellow.

Modelbau appears to be the latest guise of Frans de Waard, that international droner of mystery. His The Invaders (HNK008) is something to do with “multiform radiophonics” and was realised in the studio. In total contrast to the short-and-sweet bursts of compacted energy of Jay Dea Lopez, Modelbau opts for a the relaxed long-form of two suites lasting nearly half an hour apiece, and stretches out into these grand wall-sized canvas areas with the ease befitting his grand-master status. No less effective though. The press notes use the word “intensive”. That’s putting it mildly. I can feel myself being slowly sucked into a powerful vortex of sonic energy with this beast. It’s quite a benign process, but once you get on that treadmill there’s no turning back. A full body scan in the hospital would take less time and feel less invasive. True to the title of this work, de Waard succeeds in creating a force that gradually “invades” the listener – but it’s far from clear how this force enters the body (if indeed it does), and where it resides once the operation has been completed. It feels like an understatement to say it enters through the ears. This is a sound that seems to seep into the psyche, the spinal column, and the brain-pan. Perhaps it’s using some cell-replication technique to do its work, but I’d like to think our friendly Dutch genius plays fair – none of that cancer-emulation software for him. Ultra-drone. Another unqualified success in today’s trio of audio bosthoons.

Bruno Duplant is the French composer who has been barely audible around these parts since we first heard his Fictions LP in 2016, an item on Aussenraum which I was a bit hasty to dismiss considering the way he’s increased his visibility on the landscape since then. For Sulidae’s imprint, he has created Chants de Mémoire (HNK009), a work which divides with classical precision into two suites lasting precisely twenty minutes each. He did it with field recordings, electronics, treatments…and there’s a Bill Callahan couplet underpinning it all, perhaps providing scant clues with its terse references to wood, stone, water and burial. Unlike the above two tapes, which give us some point of entry into their hermetic worlds, Duplant’s stony-faced inscrutable minimalism is a real tough nut to prise apart. One desolate minimal tone, some faint traces of birdsong (perhaps) twittering in the background, even fainter traces of ocean sounds (perhaps). Actually if it was a landscape painting it would be all background, with virtually no concessions to the cosy conventions of composition, no central point of focus for the eye. Within this unpromising terrain, Duplant somehow works his way (through intense effort) to a place of great stillness and beauty. It’s also informed by a terrible sense of melancholy and loss, unless that’s just me projecting. I realise this kind of austere and extreme form of music can seem so empty and abstract that it verges on utter futility. It’s possible the listener has to make a good deal of effort themselves to find any meaning within. I might want to muse on the title, which makes reference to the importance of “memory”. Very recently, we noted the work of fellow Frenchman Yvan Etienne, who relies on the listener “remembering” things within the composition as an aid to navigate them through otherwise inhospitable terrain, and perhaps Duplant has an interest in the same mechanism. However, it’s just as likely that this sad and lonely piece is a sincere attempt to delineate, in sound-art form, the very process of memory itself.

All the above from 15th March 2019.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.