Sam Ridout: Aspect Spur Disjecta

Monday 3 August 2020

Over the weekend, someone on a popular social media site shared the following video, titled “Tree branch falls on power lines – high voltage – Wicked Effect”.

The first reply was:

It’s a fair point, at least for electronic (or in this case, electrical) music. As making it has gotten easier, so has it sounded more and more constricted by a curious quality of inertness. Either it becomes too easy – acceptably interesting timbres generated almost by default, without any larger musical impetus – or it gets worked over into a highly polished surface with all spontaneous disturbances buffed out, all sheen and no substance.

I got sent a new album of music by Sam Ridout the same week I bought the latest release off John Wall’s bandcamp. Fittingly, each composer has reviewed the other’s work: you could call it logrolling but listening to both reveals a strong resemblance in thinking and purpose, if not in sound. Both share a dissatisfaction with the obvious and facile, in form and matter, each using samples which are heavily reworked into complex sounds. While Wall’s M – [ B ] extends further into richer sonorities, the pieces on Ridout’s Aspect Spur Disjecta make a virtue of restraining their sonic pallette to shades of grey. The sounds are finely shaped, textured and layered to make those greys turn iridescent. The pieces, composed between 2013 and 2017, are short. Nothing stretches beyond four minutes and the entire set is over in twenty. Each piece is a distillation, inviting and rewarding concentrated listening. As with Wall’s pieces, there’s an awareness of space, depth, perspective and silence often lacking from the ‘experimental’ side of electronic music – but that’s enough for comparisons. There’s a liveliness in this music so often missing in electronics, which is all the rarer for not trying to ingratiate itself with the listener. Those heavily-worked sounds do not try to justify their presence, but exploit acoustic phenomena in ways that create seemingly natural forms that have otherwise never existed.