Intermittent D.I.Y. music / art / life writing projects.

Month: October, 2012

Nathan McLaughlin – Echolocation #1 (Digitalis, Ltd.)

Side A: Undulating static begins, with a low hum that shifts subtly over time. The static is sort of like the loping sound of the needle of a record player running endless circles at the end of a side when the automatic needle dismount doesn’t do its job, but it’s much more gentle and less predictable. The static changes its patterns and is almost imperceptibly filtered, with the parallel elements of other types of statics and low frequencies making their own subtle changes. Right now as I write this a guy across the street is mowing the lawn. I thought at first that the low hum of the lawnmower was part of the recording, as the subtle ways that the sounds on side A are introduced makes it easy to be so absorbed into the recording that any sufficiently vague sound you hear in the listening space can be mistaken for an element in the recording. I don’t mean this negatively. The way the piece on side A is designed, the sounds work on the ears and mind similarly to natural sounds you would hear outside in isolation, like subtle wind movements, insects, animals shifting around. Nothing jumps out at you and demands attention, but there is a lot going on that when attended to gives a sense of wonder.

Side B seems to focus on a single sound source which resembles a low frequency guitar feedback. The sound is like the sound a lightly distorted guitar makes when the body or the back of the neck is struck gently with a fist. This low rumble comes in gentle bursts with a short dollop of delay that trails off in its wake. The whole of this side of the tape is composed of the play this sound makes with the space that follows it. The source sound itself changes subtly here and there, too, making the trails of delay and/or reverb form different reactive sounds.

The insert reads: (these recordings)”…are performed live to a stereo feed with an absolute minimum amount of post processing or editing (and no post effects of any kind).” The center of the work here is the minutae of the interplay of these atonal statics and rumbles and the spaces between them. Some listeners would have an easier time getting into this if there was more of a tonal center, or more sounds that demand the attention of the listener. It’s very much o.k. that these characteristics are absent though, because their absence of course informs the listener that there are other ways to think about listening. There is often a lot more going on in situations that seem like perhaps not much is happening. Nathan McLaughlin has done an excellent job bringing these obscured ideas to the table in a well executed and thoughtful collection.

Rambutan – Partial Wires (Hooker Vision)

rambutan - partial wires

Rambutan (Eric Hardiman) has focused his sound palette down to an interesting microcosm of deep experimentation with synthesizer textures. Some of his earlier recordings (of note and highly recommended is the CDR Rusted Prayers Converge from 2008, and a tape recorded in 2009-2010 and put out recently on the Obsolete Units label called Surrounded) are centered on heavily effected guitars, but after some time perhaps in 2010 the direction shifted to synthesizers. Putting the guitar in the closet has produced a slew of pretty interesting and quirky releases that document a pretty cool low fidelity electronic art-music adventure. Rather than mostly creating a massive space with sounds, -doing a sort of cosmic or ambient sort of thing, the approach is more zoomed in on the interaction of the spaces between and the sounds themselves as they happen. There is a tactile sense put into the construction of each piece. There is a topography to the sounds in that they are carefully chosen for their points, peaks, wide bottoms, ripples, waves, spirals, etc. The color (tonality, volume, frequency, tambre, etc.) of the sounds is imaginative. This of course has to do with this all being synthesizer music, but Partial Wires is not composed of any predictable preset factory sounds from the synthesizers. Each piece has a sort of center that it revolves around, sometimes it’s a rhythmic arpeggio or non-arpeggio (something rhythmic or looped, which provides a sense of time), sometimes some twinkling cluster of notes ricocheting in a tiny metal room, weird sorts of arcade game-type sounds, sometimes a coordinated sculpture of a few of these things against each other. The imaginative quality of the sounds are the result of some minute tweaks and patient searching in knobland.

Throughout the tape, there’s often an implication of a melody that is repeated, such as in the first piece on side A, The Chamber, which has a repeating series of tones (an abstractly simple melody) that are synthetically plucked with ample space between each pluck for the reverberating trails and tentacles to be analyzed as it dissolves. This attention to the way each sound dissolves makes the texture of each piece unique and flavorful.

Though side A is nice, I do favor the pieces on side B. These pieces have less structure and are more like odd tone-backdrop studies in colliding tonalities and signal processing. Side A is colorfully gelatinous with some simple monochrome shapes in the foreground. Side B for the most part has only the gelatin, but I like the way its blobbiness screws with any sense of equilibrium. It’s got a sort of world-gone-sideways feeling. The first piece, A Thousand Memories (of Electricity), has the sort of primitive melody going on that The Chamber and other pieces from side A have, but the remaining 3 are less defined. In these last pieces the strangely warbled and flanged sounds are strangely moving in all directions. Repeated droplets of synthesizer sounds are skittering across a backdrop of vaguely unnerving flange weirdness that divides and melds with widely disparate registers of eerie bendy rubber bands of flange sounds. Each of the three last pieces has its own way of playing out, but they have an approach and maybe some instrumentation in common that makes them fit together almost like one bit piece divided into 3 movements. Putting the first piece (A Thousand Memories (of Electricity)) at the beginning as something like an introduction or prologue rounds out the story of side B, making four agile bars in an asymmetrical electronic poem.

The small-room reverbs and filtering used on many of the elements of each piece of music, for me, makes the music of Partial Wires appear dry and crispy, and if there’s moisture in the mix it’s usually like dewdrops, or some little splashes, or a floppy, sloppy, viscous kind of wetness. This tape has a sort of earthy, scatologically detailed science fiction angle that I enjoy very much. It does well to create imagined worlds and feelings in the listener’s mind.  A lot of Rambutan’s music has this searching-in-a-laboratory feel, likely because that’s what’s really happening as he earnestly and seeks new and different ways of sculpting evocative sounds with his varied collection of instruments. Partial Wires is a special tile on the mosaic of releases Rambutan will be flowing out as he continues his intelligently assembled and enthusiastic search.

The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali's MANIAC EYEBALL: The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dali

The lobster has just climbed out of the garbage bag and is now about to clinch the Dali autobiography book in its chelipeds.

I just finished Salvador Dali’s autobigraphy Maniac Eyeball: The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dali, which was quite a trip. I appreciate his personality and his creations much more now. He has a cosmic/mystical aspect to his thinking that I didn’t fully appreciate until reading these explanations of his thinking as well as the different observations and stories of his life. He has a fixation/identification on the significance of the geometrical curvature of the horn of the rhinoceros that he sees as being extremely significant. Generally, he has a number of fixations (as many of us do) on seemingly arbitrary things observed in life that he sees as vivid, poignant clues to secret truths or whatever you might like to call them. His intensity is great and his formidable intellect makes for consistent surprises of entertaining wit and thought provoking angles. I’m not turned off entirely by egomania as long as it’s at arm’s length and there are some other details about the person’s thoughts/life/work,etc. that can be chewed on for a while. He is unapologetic and honest about his megalomania, which in this case I find kind of admirable, mostly because I feel that the strength of his ideas and the importance of his vision were worthy of the self-important, defiant force that brought it to light.

(all quotes are from p. 253, Ch. 17 in the above pictured printing of the book.)

A quote:

Each work is like a Eucharist that helps digest the real, i.e., by supplying the gastric juices with materialized images of irrationality.”

This quote strikes me in a special way because in my own life I’ve spent a fair amount lately talking with people about probiotics, amino acids, fermented foods, etc. which help break down nutritional elements in the body for full digestion/assimilation into the system. I apply my thoughts about the magic of digesting physical matter into the human body to the concept of “digesting” thoughts and it makes more sense. Utilization of this analogy is the raw apple cider vinegar that my brain takes with the bites of thought about Dali’s use of “materialized images of irrationality” to digest reality.

Another quote:

We are at the borderline of dematerialization of matter by the sole power of the mind. Beyond, there are only energy and life tamed and maintained in artificial shapes.”

This sort of reminds me of some ideas in Carlos Castanada’s books, as well as a zillion other mystical pieces of thought by other people. Mainly what brings the Castanada reference for me is the implication that the first sentence is literally true. Otherwise maybe we’ve got Plato’s allegory of the cave, an idea I remember from Black Elk Speaks (“Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one.” ) or that sort of thing going on. I was caught off guard to find that he thought about these things so much, though not really too surprised. That he is always surprising becomes not surprising.

He talks about his relationships with Picasso, Andre Breton, Coco Chanel, and a number of other interesting characters that I previously knew little to nothing about.

He talks about his childhood, his sexual awakening, his peculiar sexual turn-ons and habits, the development of his artistic vision, and many other aspects of his life in a chronologic line relative to each work as he created. There’s a good amount of background/insight provided for his major works, and information about some lesser known works that I found illuminating.

The book is an entertaining and invigorating read if you like eccentricity, explosive zest for life, weird art, Spanish culture, fetishism, mysticism, scatology…