Summer Shorts (2)

Saturday 26 August 2023

Anouck Genthon & Mathias Forge: Notice (Insub). Since my last post, I’ve been wondering about the use of external factors as a source of inspiration for music; even more so since hearing a new album which cites the musician’s collaboration with biological researchers and study of bacterial mycelia, all to produce an aspartame-laced package of anodyne, arpeggiated burbling. This is not that album. Notice purports to be a 30-minute duet by violinist Anouck Genthon and trombonist Mathias Forge drawn “from different walking experiences” and it starts out prosaically enough: the usual droney joint improvs start to veer into strange territory bordering the obsessive and the irreverent, then something crashes to the floor. Odd pauses, delays, disruptions and percussive interjections intrude on the two musicians as they doggedly persist, even as a sine tone gets stuck in the system and buzzes away while they keep playing. Genthon and Forge have hit on a self-critical aspect so often missing from works with a conceptually pure basis, letting their initial motivations curdle like the protagonists in a Godard dérive.

Ryoko Akama & d’incise: No register No declare (Insub). Shorter and slighter than Notice, this duet between Akama and d’incise “made in Huddersfield + Bruxelles” presents no specific idea, collaging together a selection of unobtrusive clicks and hums from analog synthesiser and feedback set amongst “domestic recordings”. It’s hard to present this material coherently in a way that rises above triviality, but they almost manage it with their use of a close recording of an electric kettle. It’s a sound at once immediately recognisable and familiar, yet also sounds complex and alien in a way that both confounds and reinforces the feeling of being alone in a kitchen or hotel room. It’s the standout element (no pun intended) so when I relisten to this I just end up waiting for the bits with the kettle.

Lise Morrison: No grief without joy (Sawyer Editions). Speaking of ideas, Lise Morrison’s five compositions here offer themselves up more as suggestions for possible pieces of music, only to withdraw before really making their case. Their self-effacing modesty, with the requisite soft dynamics, suggest a wish to focus on craft over attention-seeking (cf. her Study for marimba and thunder sheets), but most of the pieces stuggle to assert their presence and seem insubstantial, feeling smaller than they really are. The exception is Five Times Recycled, with Sara Constant re-recording her bass flute on cassettes until they break up into a grotty fug of kazoos.

Clinton Green/Ian Andrews: False Currency (tsss tapes), Ross Manning: Some Technical Drawings (Shame File Music), Tarab: Rooms (Ferns Recordings). I imagine the Australian sound sculpture scene is pretty close-knit, as other enthusiasts in minority activities often find themselves out of necessity. Clinton Green (Shame File Music founder) has made a collection of “automatic/aleatory systems” collaborations with Ian Andrews on False Currency, which for the most part sounds like much kinetic sculpture sonic art. There’s one track where the sounds are digitally stretched and smeared to produce a shimmering ambient haze, but otherwise it’s the usual small percussion sounds stumbling over each other that have come to characterize the genre. It combines a fascination with small sounds and processes that act as an end in themselves, which precludes any interest beyond the momentary and the trivial. Ross Manning’s Some Technical Drawings adds a welcome advance to the kinetic constructions by incorporating electronics, or at least audible electricity. It nips in the bud the Gilligan’s Island connotations to the contraptions and adds more intrigue to the sounds produced beyond the usual clunk and thunk. Only trouble is about half of the album is given over to the vagaries of an electronic buzz that squarely sets you back in the obsession with processes and small differences. Tarab’s Rooms is more different still, and all the better for it. The objects used are located in definite spaces, recorded either close up or situated in a wider ambience, then processed through the distorting filters of natural acoustics and technological reproduction. Object and space are edited together in ways which evoke documentary, narrative and mise-en-scène and the messy way they interact when ostensibly presenting a straight representation of what happened, far from the complacent belief that capturing the process on tape (or digital file or whatever) is the most honest policy.