Two Cassettes From Winds Measure Recordings: Various 'V-p V-f is V-n' + Pierre Gerard and Andy Graydon 'Untitled (Magnetisms)' (2010/11)

The first cassette release from the ever impressive Winds Measure catalog comes as part two of a compilation series entitled V-p V-f is V-n. Label head Ben Owen commissioned over 30 sound artists to submit one or two very short pieces, approximately one minute in length. The first noticeable thing about listening to this is that the experience of it as a cassette has an immediate and direct influence on one's perception of the work as a whole. To listen to this casually is to accept its holism, as it very quickly becomes impossible to match the track playing with the track listing. Go to the bathroom and by the time you get back you're lost. This can be frustrating at first, though arguably V-p V-f is V-n is then, by nature, better understood as a kind of clever collaborative facilitation on Owen's part – think of it as a single, mutating composition by multiple artists – rather than a "standard" compilation. Hard to say what the difference is really, if there even is one. It's all in how one defines things.

If you do decide to sit down with this, some pieces will inevitably stand out. Side one sees a nice coupling of Lawrence English's Not for the Cane, a lush nature recording, with Ben Owen's Lisbon Station, a clattering of percussive ephemera. Sawako's 02 is also quite good. Side two sees Alessandro Bosetti's wonderfully warped take on sound poetry and Ben Scott's 2216(-.004), a recording of what sounds like an conventional radio track swathed in comforting static. Of 50 tracks and all the possible things that could have gone wrong, this follow-up in the V-p V-f is V-n series saw a remarkably cohesive outcome. Well done.

Another magnificently packed tape, this time a split between the Belgium based Pierre Gerard and German sound artist Andy Graydon. As the story goes, Winds Measure commissioned these gentlemen to produce a work specifically for cassette. The two answered the call with magnetism, a theme that is as fundamental to migratory birds as it is to the functionality of analog tape. Gerard and Graydon began planning their work while focusing on two phenomena associated with magnetism: homeward migration and polarity, eventually settling on a process in which each artist would send the other a recording from their respective home environments to process and compose with – Graydon sending a recording of bamboo in the forests outside his childhood home on Maui, Hawaii and Gerard sending a recording of a wooden table located outside a house in the French village Espère.

The A side, Orientation (Magnetite Crystals), composed by Gerard, fits nicely alongside the minimalist extremes of previous Winds Measure productions – Richard Garet's L'avenir and Jason Kahn and Takefumi Naoshima's In a Room come to mind. The piece is glacial, coalescing as a motionless stretch of time over its 20 minute duration. Gerard's micro-movements of sound are often listless, though occasionally they become spring loaded, vibrating through the speaker cones for a split second before they are gone, a new sound taking their place. Very consistent and a great work. Graydon's side is for the most part equally as enjoyable save for perhaps a few over zealous moments, though he makes up for it in the lovely ambient sections peppered throughout. A fine job that strikes me as easier to fall into than Gerard's piece, though ultimately not as rewarding. Again, a worthwhile release from Winds Measure, and if you haven't done so already invest some time in this under-appreciated label.

Excerpt: Orientation (Magnetite Crystals) by Pierre Gerard


Kassel Jaeger 'Lignes d'erre & Randons' + Revenant 'Zeltini' (Unfathomless, 2010/11)

Parisian sound artist Kassel Jaeger presents a rather compelling seven tracks on Lignes d'erre & Randons that surf between hewn field recordings and rarified electronics. Joe Colley, Fennesz, and Tarab come to mind on many occasions, but as these artists stick to their respective styles, Jaeger is somehow able to take from all of them to create his (or her) own ecology of sound (not to say that these guys are even on Jaeger's radar, stylistically I just see parallels).

Jaeger shrouds these tracks with an air of mystery as the liner only hints at sources and locations. Insects, rivers, and pipelines are mentioned, and if one pays close enough attention some of these can be revealed, such as on Dispersion Des Limbes, with its weather beaten backdrop of wind and rain that eventually gives way to a wash of schizophrenic activity, or the closer Pneuma, that distinctly sounds like wind resonating through a pipeline. Other tracks, like the fantastic Blank Pyramid, with its repetition of some unknown ghostly voice, remain a complete mystery to me, and are all the better for it. Lignes d'erre & Randons is a remarkable blending of styles and is yet another great production from Daniel Crokaert at Unfathomless.

Somewhat of a supergroup of phongraphers collaborating on this one, including John Grzinich, Felicity Mangan, Kaspars Kalninsh, Eamon Sprod, and Maksims Shentelevs. I've seen other names as part of "Revenant" in the past that have included artists like Hitoshi Kojo and Patrick McGinley. Revenant is an on-going project focusing on site specific acoustic actions. All recorded sounds originate from found materials located in-situ and through performer interactions with particular spaces.

Acting as the local for this recording was Zeltini, a former Soviet military base located in a forest in Latvia. As the sun's light was growing dim the Revenant group ventured into one of the base's abandoned bunkers to feel and hear their way through an hour long improvisation. On its own, Zeltini isn't a particularly captivating work. However, in understanding the concept, constraints, and context of the recording, it does stand as quite impressive, particularly in the groups deftness in extrapolating fine drones and consistent textures through only the use of found material, not to mention their sublime translation of depth in this large space. To my surprise, a radio and Jew's harp are clearly heard at different points, and I'm skeptical as to their legitimacy as found objects. That aside, Zeltini should spark some inspiration in artist's working in this field, or any field for that matter.


Music for Painting 2

1. Jefre Cantu Ledesma - Aberration of Starlight :: Garden of the Forking Paths (Spekk, 2007)
2. Andrew Chalk - Flux :: The Cable House (Faraway Press, 2009/10)
3. Colin Andrew Sheffield - Untitled #2 :: Slowly (Mystery Sea, 2010)
4. RV Paintings - Millions :: Samoa Highway (Helen Scarsdale Agency, 2010)
5. Barn Owl - Twilight :: Ancestral Star (Thrill Jockey, 2010)
6. Common Eider, King Eider - Earth Liver :: Worn (Root Strata, 2010)
7. Stephan Mathieu - A Static Place I :: A Static Place (12K, 2011)
8. Kassel Jaeger - Blank Pyramid :: Lignes D'erre & Randons (Unfathomless, 2010)
9. Rale - Somehow :: Whispering Gallery 12" (Arbor, 2009)
10. K-Group/Omit - Long Circuit :: Storage LP (Fusetron, 2001)
11. Illusion of Safety - Too Late To Exist :: Bridges Intact (Waystyx, 2010)
12. Asher - Untitled :: Various 10 (Room40, 2011)


Banks Bailey 'Upwelling' (Mystery Sea, 2010)

Along side his collaboration with Mathieu Ruhlmann, entitled Anáádiih, Banks Bailey has steadily increased his release count of limited run cdrs since 2008. His latest for MS is strictly his own, in which he blends field recordings–an obvious passion–with the sounds of resonant bells, intermittent speech, and quivering drone. Because I've always lobbied for this sort of organic soundscaping to be dealt with in the long form so as given enough time to flourish, I was assured to find that Bailey decided to comprise Upwelling as a single 45 minute track.

Very generally speaking, the term upwelling refers to an oceanic process that involves the propelling of wind driven nutrient-rich water to the surface of oceans--where it takes the place of nutrient-depleted waters--a fitting title for a work that is rife with the sounds of water. Compositionally, neither the field recordings nor the drone ever become overbearing. Instead, Bailey opts for a gentle rise and fall between the two, creating an effect akin to that of tidal movement.

Though fairly consistent throughout, the piece works best at around the ten minute mark, where Bailey's microclimates take on a distinctive industrial tinge via metal clattering atop a bed of stifled ambience, and at around 25 minutes, when the sunken resonations of chimed bells creep into perception from deep below the surface.


Colin Andrew Sheffield 'Slowly' (Mystery Sea, 2010)

The oceans keep droning as a new batch of material cometh my way from the unrelenting Mystery Sea label, whose late 2010 was marked by an impressive output of releases (one per month from September through to November if I'm not mistaken), including Banks Bailey's sub-bass nether-world (review forthcoming) and Colin Andrew Sheffield's poignant, yet effervescent minimalist excursions.

A couple of weeks ago I was stuck in a bit of a music enthusiast's rut. In attempting to glean a sense of purpose from a handful of small-run phonography and noise albums, I found myself instead shrugging my shoulders and spending countless minutes per day staring apathetically out windows. Not surprisingly, my distress was soon answered by Colin Andrew Sheffield's Slowly, which propelled me out of that hole by acting as the perfect aural cleanser to my undeniably bored ears. What did surprise me though was just how far it was able to propel me out of that hole and back into the realm of music appreciation, such that every one of my records looked as if they were gold plated and resembled small portals into an eternal paradise where existence is nothing less than pure and infinite pleasure for all of the body's senses. I guess you could call it good timing.

As the liner notes proclaim, the four untitled tracks that occupy Slowly were all derived from various commercially available recordings, although their ambiguity upon first listen means they could easily be mistaken for anything from synths and guitars to augmented field recordings. Upon second or third listen, however, the musical process (I would imagine similar to that used by Belong on their Colorless Record 12", only less obvious) that Sheffield most likely applied in the rendering of these tracks becomes clearer. The shape and form of the original music is there, though the material was obviously fed through an array of processing, likely by certain techniques that have become unique to Sheffield's musical assemblage.

The nearly 20 minute opening track is also the album's finest, registering an amorphous haze of sonic rippling that is ever dynamic. The entirety of the sound spectrum is forced to capitulate to the track's overpowering mass, affectively generating a tug-o-war amongst crystal-sharp tones and out-of-focus resonances. The Industrial overtones and sprawling hiss of the second track continue to encapsulate Sheffield's abilities to adeptly collide the bleary with the lucid, while the third track sees Sheffield slip into a tireless arrangement of heavy-toned minimalism, resembling a more tranquil reprise of the opening track. The closer, with its swaying sawtooth arpeggios, steps on the heels of noise though quickly pulls back before retreating into the meditative abyss that is the album's lifeline. A fine work.


Esoteric Soundscapes-Mutations

A few months back I was asked to produce a composition for Activating the Medium XIV: Radio. This contribution along with others from sound artists working in similar territory will be broadcasted over various radio stations at various times. A list of broadcast times along with specifics about this year's fest including themes, performances and artist bios can be found here: 23five. The first broadcast is tonight from 11:59pm-1:00am on KALX out of Berkley. Tune in. Sorry, but unlike the rest of the esoteric soundscape series this is a fully realized work and is therefore not under creative commons licensing. Feel free to download it and listen all you want though.

*Mutations-a good stereo/speaker system with sufficient low-end is recommended. What's sufficient? enough that it doesn't sound like crap.