A Homage to the God of Trade

Got a couple of great cassettes of worrisome noise from Greece, released on the Granny Records label out there in Thessaloniki. Besides publishing works by contemporary musicians, they also host Granny events. Good music and strong cover designs with bold typography; seeing that array of covers on their site reminded we heard their cassette by The Pitch, that exceptional Berlin quartet, two years ago.

The tape 84100 (GRANNY 23) is a teamup between Greek player Savvas Metaxas and the Italian Renato Grieco. These two met up during a residency called “Sounding Paths” in 2018 at Syros and must have discovered they had enough friction in their mutual bones to spark a kindred interest. Their shared “investigations” recorded on that island, along with a live performance, ended up as materials in Renato’s many-layered bag which he took back home to Naples, there to enact editing actions with his virtual scimitar. Having implied they share common ground, it might be more accurate to consider them driven by different priorities and imperatives; Savvas likes stories and history, but Renato prefers the abstract, truth-to-materials ideal of working with tape as a plastic substance; if the latter is true, let’s hope he clutches a reel-to-reel in his fine digits and enjoys the sensuous feel of winding magnetic tape onto those soft, yielding capstans.

The results on the tape are an exciting mixed blend that defies rational analysis, refusing to follow a single thread or pathway; at the same time, it’s nebulous and distributed, giving much imaginary space and multiple entry-points for listener-user to explore and discover. I particularly got a fine ghostly buzz from the A-side, which kicks off with a fascinating jumble of many field recordings unfolding in impossible time sequences; the mumbling voices, perhaps standing for the “industrial ghost-past of Ermoupolis” that interest our Greek friend, are especially poignant and eerie, and his sensitive use of this oft-employed device is fresh and imaginative. The piece finishes up with baffling noise eruptions, like the bellow of a very disaffected elephant. The entire cassette is a fine example of collage and layering used in a very exploratory manner, as if the creators were genuine about discovering or inventing something new, rather than leading us down the same old pathways of seashores, footsteps, and city sounds. Top marks for this 84100, a strong exercise in ambiguity and understated menace, realised without recourse to banal ambient drone or harsh pounding noise.

On No Options (GRANNY 22), we have a collaborative work between Eventless Plot and the clarinet player Chris Cundy. We’ve heard from both of these before. Cundy has appeared mainly in an improvisation context, for instance as a member of Weavels, and in Longstone, though my favourite is the green light record he made with Benedict Taylor in 2017. Eventless Plot are a trio of Greek players, heard by us on their Recon album (“very promising and beautifully interpreted electroacoustic music”) from 2012, and they have their own take on the electronic-acoustic approach which has been under investigation across the world for about two decades now. The pieces here, very slow deliberate music, are compositions involving a mix of electromagnet, synths, contact mics, and Max/MSP software to achieve their aims. All three pieces are experiments in creating waves and tones of sound, and letting them collide (however gently) and interact as needed. Cundy must have felt like he was entering a laboratory, allowing his playing to be drawn out of him by magnetic forces and close-miked vibrating objects (the latter array inevitably includes singing bowls and cymbals, always popular favourites in this area). This one’s a little process-heavy for me, but there’s a definite “room presence” to these mysterious and languid sounds, and they often succeed in creating the hoped-for trance state in the fascinated listener.

Both the above from 5th May 2020.