Stuck in a loop: Mattin, Valerio Tricoli

Wednesday 27 March 2024

I got sent a digital download of a limited-release cassette of not-bad bedroom collages turning 20th Century composers into Yuppie-friendly repetitive loops that would have knocked my socks off in the mid-80s and still today is, as I said, not-bad despite or perhaps even because it takes a lot less craft to make such a thing these days. Then I lost interest in writing more about it because the artist was a self-described cyber-shaman named Vadge Wanko who said his tape was striking a blow against Thatcher – something like that, anyway; my eyes kept glazing over. The awkward thing is now I’ve got Mattin’s Seize The Means Of Complexity [Xing] on the stereo and I get it, but maybe not in the way he’d like. Just so you know up front, this is a Mattin record you can listen to rather than just think about. It is, of course, still a provocation: side A opens with bursts of appropriated music before quickly lapsing into near-nothingness, much later resuming with a trashpile of pirated pop clips haphazardly stacked up against each other. The flip side starts out as before but is soon infiltrated with flickering, burning noise that steadily consumes everything in its path. The tropes and attitude of pop art at its most scabrous are present and correct, but Mattin’s handling of the material and control of the form keeps its critiques fresh by reifying the old, oft-repeated premise and treating the present-day details with indifference. The paradox at the heart of Seize The Means Of Complexity is that it achieves its power through a philosophical construct that has endured since the dawn of the industrial age, that of the present being a unique moment of existential crisis. His sleeve notes dream of “forging a new form of catholicism fit for the 21st century” allude to the reliance on tradition in this work. Actually, I meant to type “communism” in that quote but I’m not going back to change it because whatever ideology you slot in there reveals the incipient nostalgia at work here.

Dunno why I haven’t written about Valerio Tricoli before so I better start now. His virtuosic handling of open-reel tape recorders as instruments is compelling in a live setting and scarcely less so on record. The nature of the beast insists on repetition within linear time structures, but Tricoli’s mastery overcomes the obvious limitations of the device while harnessing its inherent capacity to imbue even the most discursive gestures with a steady momentum. A Circle of Grey [Xing again] demonstrates this potency through being so undemonstrative, making an extended pieces that simmers with energy even while, sonically, scarcely breaking the surface. Content is sublimated into the medium, keeping each slip, echo and crackle to a strategic minimum, transforming technique into material. He’s going over the same ground as before, but each new expedition reveals a deeper understanding and greater appreciation for the underlying fundamental nature of the exercise. By now, it’s a slow journey with time to discover and admire the smallest details, transcending the origins of the found sounds to produce an analogue electronic landscape, at once lush and austere.