Lips in the Hills

Another two items from Every Contact Leaves a Trace, again with distinctive embossed card covers. The item Music Of Sound which bears embossed Stanley Knife blades is by Henry Collins….the blade images reminded me of a Man Ray rayogram to some extent, household objects scattered on light-sensitive paper and exposed to leave silhouettes…every contact does indeed leave a trace…Collins has chosen the Stanley Knife blades as his emblem because he’s an editing guy. This 31-minute piece of conceptual sound art is a selectively edited movie soundtrack, movie in question being of course The Sound of Music, that 1965 kitschoid celluloid spectacular that has influenced Quentin Tarantino so much…the gimmick here is that all the speech – and more perversely, all the songs – have been edited out, to leave only incidental sound effects from the film. The section I’m listening to right now for instance seems to involve people running up and down stairs, slamming doors, and blowing whistles. Later, I came across a thunderstorm and birdsong. 1 Blank, perplexing, disconnected anti-narrative effects are instantly achieved; a ghost of the original film. It’s about as absurdist as it’s possible for a sequential work of art to be in the 21st century, after the work of such terminal nihilists as Samuel Beckett, Andy Warhol and Peter Gidal. At one level, the craft and patience of the creator, not to mention the sheer hard work involved, is certainly considerable. At another level, it’s possible to entertain the thought that he hated the Julie Andrews musical so much that the only way he could bear to put up with it was by subtracting all the speech and songs from it. This makes a statement which is the exact polar opposite of those sing-a-long screening events of The Sound of Music you hear so much about. 2 To reinforce the idea, the coloured insert shows us the film’s most famous image (Julie Andrews cavorting in the alps before bursting into song), with the principal character carefully removed perhaps using Photoshop techniques, leaving only her shadow behind. 3 In this instance, every contact still leaves some trace. And in like manner, the wrapper for the disc is scattered with isolated words, almost forming disjunctive sentences, as if they’d been heaped up in disarray from the editor’s excisions as he cut them out, one by one. Cut-ups…Brion Gysin might’ve loved this, were it not so clinical and cold in its execution. From January 2014.

The second item Four No-Input Field Recordings is by Seth Cooke and is wrapped in a Spirograph op-art cover and sandwiched in two cardboard boards impressed with rows of dots…compared to the above, it’s a much noisier and abstracted work of sound art, and apparently was realised via a process of “no-input field recordings, normalised”. Each harsh and alienating burst of white-noise modifications lasts precisely five minutes and two seconds on this neatly-arrayed mini CDR. There’s a lot of high-level, hissy frequencies which are pretty hard to endure, but there are also other unidentifiable tones warbling and rumbling their way about the sound-field which make the proposition more palatable, even giving the work a vaguely three-dimensional quality, so that it’s not simply a flat wall of grotesque noise. The construction of the music is completely impenetrable, and nothing is revealed about its origins or methodology. Bristol-based percussionist Cooke is in fact the owner of this record label, and he released Pneuma on the Bristol label LF Records in 2012, a record which I recall as being equally brutal.

  1. These elements may mean something to readers who are more familiar than I with this cinematic work, but I admit it’s to my detriment that I’ve never seen it.
  2. And which I have never attended.
  3. One is reminded of a series of very obscure Jliat releases, where he took famous rock LP covers and ingeniously removed any trace of a human figure. For instance, for the cover of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, he removed the image of the old man carrying his bundle of sticks.

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