French composer and noise maker Julian Ottavi has often been associated with digital process noise, and seems drawn to the possibilities of generating noise music from the computer and the internet. His latest CD Beyond Symphony (FIBRR fibrr0019) was likewise created a computer and “pure data” according the cover credit – although he compounds the words into a single neologism, “puredata”. For one hour and 15 mins, quantities of digital information may be passing through the innards of his device, generating a teeming mass of audio signals. This mass varies from being irritating (jangling atomic sub-particles of sound bouncing about on a hotplate) to insufferable (roaring harsh noise wall blastage). If you can endure this non-stop barrage of density and heaviness with little variation for 40 mins, you might make it to the middle part of the symphony, which is almost completely empty – a field of digital silence, occasionally illuminated by tiny meaningless blips. After that, it’s back to the roaring noise. Perhaps, through the structure of this strange work, Ottavi is trying to create a grand metaphor for the state of the internet today, our dependence on cloud computing, the rise and fall of social media. Very hard to process these ghastly, inhuman tones; still harder to listen to the whole thing through. Ottavi has achieved very little by simply extending it all for so long, and it feels like a trivial idea expanded into something unnecessarily voluminous. From 20th March 2019.
Tomaso Corbetta sent us a copy of Wakes In Emptiness (NO LABEL) from Spain, which he recorded in late 2017 and completed in 2018. Corbetta has a history as a recording technician, doing sound engineering and production for contemporary musical projects; this may be his first solo record. To make it, he used the now familiar device of layering together field recordings with digital computer music and signals from short wave radios. A very slow-moving long-form work of delicate minimalism results; gentle fluttering of digital butterflies and virtual cicadas, crossed with unobtrusive drones, and strange thumping noises as someone moves the furniture around in the next room. Corbetta is trying to tell us something about “the synthesis of East and West”, which is an intriguing possibility, but he frankly owns that he does this “from a perspective of understanding nothing”. He tries to bring about this state of intellectual inquiry by simply combining tones and timbres, or as he would have it “weaving sound situations”; the act of editing alone is enough to raise these questions. I am prepared to believe that the power of editing has this capability, but this work is just too abstract; there is almost no content or substance to ground it any form of reality, and consequently it’s hard for the listener to participate in the nebulous process that Corbetta is proposing. Admittedly, there is a printed quote from Byung-Chul Han (a 20th-century cultural philosopher born in Korea) in the cover, but we need more clues, please; more of an effort to communicate something. From 21st March 2019.
Quite nice sound-art thing from Alexandra Spence is Waking, She Heard The Fluttering (ROOM 40 RM4104). She travelled in UK and Europe in 2018 and picked up ideas through experiences, looking at things, and meeting people, including David Toop who told her a yarn. The finished record includes field recordings, as might be expected, but she has a refreshing approach to this rather over-done genre. It feels cautious and hesitant, which I like, as though she’s uncertain to commit to anything – objects might not be what they appear to be, and we can’t be sure of what we’re seeing or hearing. Much of the material emerges within this free-spirited mode of enquiry, refusing to pass judgement on the meaning of the world. I also like her editing technique, which elides and overlays mixed materials and diverse sources in a very subtle, seemingly effortless manner, art-concealing-art. One consequence of this is we get a very kaleidoscopic, open-ended view of the world, with many events happening at once. It stirs our natural intellectual curiosity about things, which can only be good. From 19th March 2019.