"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Line In

2013 transmissions from Basinski + Chartier, AGF, and Simon Whetham notwithstanding, still being received here are four Line Ins from 2012. Lest its late-period labours at the interface between digital minimalism and microsound go unsung, here’s an ear-pique at a spread of chewy offerings from this once Difficult Twin of LMYE label of 2012, 12k (now, of course, non-aligned, under sole stewardship of Richard Chartier) that further cement its place in the vanguard of experimental electronics.



Built Through finds Line manager Chartier once more ‘exploring inter-relationships between the spatial nature of sound, silence, focus, perception and the act of listening itself’ with trademark microsonic prowess. He ideates an engrossing enquiry into acoustic architecture with more feet-in-the-soil sonician, Robert Curgenven, dealer in immersive resonances via turntables and custom-made vinyl, instrumental harmonics and guitar feedback, and field recordings from remote areas. Built Through’s four pieces find Chartier’s ideology of relationism between sound, silence, focus and the listening act fully realized with Curgenven’s collusion,variously fusing digital and organic. All very academic and process music pukka, to be sure, but does it butter the listening product parsnips? As if in reply, the kat booms: ‘Their sounds are of an incredibly fine calibre and arranged with such a sense of unfolding, albeit abstract, narrative, that we’re sucked in to near-extreme levels of concentration to focus on the slightest fluctuation, and sent reeling by the presence of such overpoweringly physical bass frequencies.’

Previously on Line, there was Curgenven’s Oltre on which ‘his orchestrations of slight textural shifts, the interplay between hum and drone, found sounds and vinyl crackle effect a satisfyingly uneasy suspension between rapt contemplative and grim angst-ridden.’

The Subharchord, a rare electronic instrument built in a limited edition during the 1960s at the RFZ, the technical centre for radio and TV of the East German postal service, is the obscure object of Frank Bretschneider’s desire on Kippschwingungen. His aim, in line with contemporary electronic music’s current fixation with its pioneering history, is to harness the technology of Then to the music and production methods of Now. It pares things back to basics - one sonic generator and a reduced range of functions. The album deals largely in droning pitches and ring modulator-type sustains, interspersed between rhythm-driven pieces. A sound, in fact, not entirely unfamiliar from a recent release…

… though Kippschwingungen (= ‘tilting oscillations’) ends up quite differently configured from Bretschneider’s recent signature style, whether the tech-gnosis of Komet or the bass-space-funk of Rhythm. A Mancy enthusiast finds it: ‘A long alluringly austere continuum of sound unfolding into astringent spaces - eerie alien plateaus of tone give way to insectile sounds evoking all kinds of minimal rhythm explorations’ and ‘A wormholing 37-minute experience, deftly and intently exploring the machine’s limitations to discover mind-warping cosmic turbulence and penetrate extraordinary, otherworldly sonic dimensions whilst somehow sustaining a tangible narrative arc.’


Those who thrilled to LMYE 2011 pick, The Peregrine, will find in Lawrence English’s For / Not For John Cage a less effusive but no less engrossing work. Cage’s centenary inspired what was conceived as homage to a man who has been a constant touchstone for English; he sought something that offered an openness, that might invite a new perspective of exploration of Cage’s ideas, alighting upon a less celebrated piece - the film for solo light performer, One11.

With video artist Scott Morrison they developed a new piece, One11 (refocused), devised from diverse esoteric Cageisms. The audio outcomes are immediately compelling - soft-edged slightly eerie whorls in slow-mo whirls, shapes with form dissolving, colours collapsing, ravaged by radical reverb - indeterminacy drawing tones from consonance to dissonance and back again, in its shape-shifting blurscapes. ‘It is almost as if themes of music and texture have been extracted from various sections of this original work and gone on to become or inform a much more cosmic and arguably contemporary counterpart,’ projects Fluid Radio, before pertinently observing ‘there is no real extreme positive or negative effect to any of the tracks, the otherworldliness is instead at the forefront and thrusts the listener into a strange, exotic mental space where such psychological concerns are skewed and thrown into a rather more mysterious abstract.’

Returning to source, Chartier’s Recurrence is a re-imagining of inaugural Line release, Series, which, after its coming out in 2001, apparently remained unperformed, even “unperformable” due to noise and audio system limitations of live environments. More recently a revisiting was finally essayed - to impressive effect, as heard on “Recurrence (room/crosstones),” an exploration of wavering sinetones captured from (one assumes) room reverberations; essentially a slow-mutating tonal throb, it has echoes of his Transparency (Performance), though a more assertive than customary demeanour yields an unusual hybrid reference point: ‘the kind of low-end destruction you’d more likely expect to hear from doom pioneers, Sunn o))), but with the meditative edge of Steve Roach.’ 

‘If Transparency was a spotless white laboratory room, Recurrence is a swamp of thick vibration, deliberately swirling crumples of static in with the whines and beeps of the foreground’ is this writer’s analogy, further extended to ‘throbbing gently like a power generator or chirping like electronic crickets, or stuttering between tone and static like a radio transmission falling away from clear signal.’

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