Short Cuts: Rawlinson, Friedl, Steiger

Thursday 23 February 2023

Pulsar Retcon by Jules Rawlinson (Superpang): nine quick takes of electronic noise that cram a lot into sub-twenty minutes. It all bustles about constantly, alternately scratching, squelching and beeping in a nice mad-scientist way. When it starts to sound like it’s just rolling back and forth to keep busy, it’s because that’s exactly what’s happening: “Improvised buffer scratching, corpus scrubbing and waveform scuffing of material sourced from New Pulsar Generator.” I wanted something truly surprising to happen but instead it gets comfortable with itself, which is kind of forgiven by the means of its construction. Rawlinson’s trying out licks on a reluctant instrument and looks for a groove before trying to bust it up, which justifies the human noodling gestures heard through the emotionless static and also keeps things lively to the end.

Old Neo by Reinhold Friedl (also Superpang): Friedl has a lot more gear at his disposal than Rawlinson, taking all the sounds for his thirty-ish minute opus from a Neo-Bechstein. (If you don’t want to right-click that name, it’s a brand of 1930s electric piano of which two functioning instruments survive.) Presumably the Austrian museum curators won’t let you go hog wild on the thing so Old Neo is an extended slab of sombre mood music, all ominous drones and keening feedback harmonics. I’m left teetering between admiring the way Friedl doesn’t want the piece to become a gimmick and instead puts the instrument into service to produce a piece of music, and wishing he could find something more distinctive in this strange device than electronic ambience that only becomes remarkable when you find out how the piece is made, thus inadvertently sealing its fate as a gimmick.

Loud Object by Billy Steiger (Otoroku): kind of electronic, disguised as violin yoga. It’s one of those deals where the fiddler obsessively hammers away at a short riff and sees where it leads them, one per LP side or digital simulacrum. It feels like I’ve heard half a dozen of these but the twist here is that Steiger thriftily recycles his rejected takes by feeding them into a sampler to loop in bogus psychoacoustica, adding a complexity both to the sound and the concept. You can never be exactly sure that what you’re hearing is the work of a skilled musician making the notes from his acoustic instrument bounce around the walls organically, or a skilled musician layering in digitial hallucinations. Either way, you end up doubting what you think you’re really hearing, which is a nice way of shaking you out of any complacent trust in authenticity and to make you probe a little deeper. The sleeve notes are worded in a way that allow the possibility that at times Steiger may let go and leave his digital past selves to do the talking for him.