"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Thursday, 30 September 2010

"An unlikely glass of ginger ale"

On the same day we're 'treated' to
a first taste of Warped Eno, how refreshing to instantly shrug off that clunking disappointment with the shimmering, layered subtleties of Koen Holtkamp. The Mountains-eer's new Gravity/Bees (extract & video below) is the kind of record that Eno ought still to be making, a beguiling, warm experimental gem that manages to enlarge notions of what constitutes a sound source (bees?!) & of what ambient music can, er, be.

To drag this clumsy yoking of the two out a bit more: these ears detect a rich whiff of Cluster/Harmonia in the extract's middle section. & while the new record avoids Small Craft's extreme fetishisation, it too isn't averse to a little object porn: "Gravity/Bees was mastered and cut at D + M in Berlin and is presented in a mini-LP format and will be available in an initial pressing of 1,000 copies with a custom letter-pressed jacket."

Oh, & apologies for the apiology but it's striking how much this theme is foreshadowed in Holtkamp's earlier work - Hives on Mountains Mountains Mountains, Bee Change on Field Rituals...

Previous coverage (& here). Field Rituals stream. Discogs (KH; Mountains).

Blurb: "The main idea behind this recording was to combine the live and studio approach, older material with newer, as well as document Holtkamp's shift from digital processing on computers to the physical world of creating patches via modular analog electronics. Both "In The Absence Of Gravity Please Note The Position Of The Sun" and "Loosely Based On Bees" combine these elements and serve to document that transition.

"In The Absence Of Gravity…" is a side-long piece based around a 2008 solo performance in Brighton. The technical set up was somewhat inspired by Terry Riley's 'time-lag accumulator' pieces using a delay system where Holtkamp was constantly recording over himself in order to create a continuous and fluid overall sound. A friend sent him a recording of the performance and it encouraged Holtkamp to take a non-purist approach and combine the live recording with some of his more recent studio experimentations from the summer of 2010. The work is built mainly around processed acoustic guitar, analog synthesizers, and electronics but also incorporates recordings of harmonica, electric organ, small percussion objects, and an unlikely glass of ginger ale.

"Loosely Based On Bees" takes the opposite approach and is mainly a studio creation with only a few live additions from a 2008 New Years performance added on toward the end. Originally spurred by an invitation to take part in the Dissolving Localities Project in Jerusalem in May 2010, Holtkamp's decision to craft a recording from bees stemmed from a desire to create something he was attracted to from a production standpoint. Something extremely detailed and resonant. On one level representing a continuous flow of sound like a drone but also having a familiar association making it human. It just so happens that Holtkamp had a friend who kept bees on his roof and the project began. After trying several different approaches he placed a tiny set of binaural microphones inside the top of the hive and got the extremely detailed and saturated representation he had been hoping for. He took the extra step to do the piece in an open D tuning and used various analog filters to emphasize the sympathetic frequencies in the bees recordings so that they would work somewhat harmonically with the instruments. In the beginning of the piece the instruments are sculpted around the bee recordings, as the piece develops the actual bees gradually become background and the instruments take focus loosely emulating the buzzing resonant characteristics of the hive."

Next: "Holtkamp is staying busy by recording sound for a documentary in Japan and working on a companion piece that will be released on Barge Recordings in 2011. He will also be playing a few solo shows both at home and abroad, as well as doing a handful of Mountains US and European shows. "

Koen Holtkamp > Loosely Based on Bees [excerpt] (from Gravity/Bees, forthcoming on Thrill Jockey)

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