Label: 23five - 23F/SFM 902,San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art - 23F/SFM 902 • Format: CD Compilation • Country: US • Genre: Electronic • Style: Noise, Experimental, Ambient, Abstract
The guitar cliches are in effect: the high gain power chords, the pick slides, and the Derek Bailey imitations; but it flows seamlessly, as the creaking door morphs into strange horn-like tones and the processed guitar provides a dazzling array of counterpoint sounds in what could be all the Powerbook cliches. Robbie Avenaim's "Impulse Control Disorder" also takes the DSP improv route, mixing high tones, beeps and FM bells, and the whistle of steam with the clatter of thin, trash-can percussion.
It has a great sense of progression. Philip Samartzis' piece, "Soft And Loud," is an exercise in interruption; a train approaches and then some fractured music starts, only to suddenly disappear leaving only the wind.
This general idea is repeated several times, using environmental, mechanical, and digital sounds to represent these two extremes. I really like the "soft" parts of the track; there are some beautiful field recordings and gentle buzzing drones, but it's only fitting that these moments of peace are transitory. Variable Resistance has introduced me to some innovative new artists, and like its relative Ju-Jikan, is definitely a worthwhile collection.
The booklet lists the 86 pieces and the artists, and I must admit to not having heard of many of them — it would be nice to have a similar festival here! Anyway, 23five have put out an accompanying cd with new pieces from the show plus one which wasn't and a booklet with Samartzis' notes on the themes and an essay by Csaba Toth on noise around the Pacific, but which is also a more generally interesting discussion of the Easy Listening - Spooner Oldham - Pot Luck. David Brown also moves around a lot in 'Were holes mended?
After a while you begin to realise that all the Gaps. (Flicker) - Various - Variable Resistance (Ten Hours Of Sound From Australia) are probably guitar based and then messed around this is from the digital-Musique Concrete section.
The first is a surprisingly delicate tonal ambience with some echoey ringing, then bursts of harsh industrial noise, bursting through silence, and finally another ambience, hollow metallic with suggestions that it is voice based. Two from the Residue section: 'Violation' Thembi Soddell is some soft shimmering hiss with high hammondy-tones joined by teletype percussion, through which a whooshing rumble builds to crash The Sun - So Bright (Tunnel Trance Force Full Length) - Accuface - 10 Most Wanted waves to the end.
Then Darrin Verhagen offer 'P2' a lovely concoction of clicks that swim around, rumbles, scraping wind, mysterious and emergent tones sliding to a more static period, that resonates and entices. The only non-installation track is Pimmon's 'Steps. Flicker ' that opens with chimey tones with a rumbling ringing metallic stasis behind them, joined by a whoosh and pulsing breaks and then fades down to a conclusion, bells through the final part. As an indication of part of what's happening in Australia it is a useful document, but more importantly it works very nicely as a compilation of complex confronting and satisfying soundworks.
The Wire The majority of CD compilations should be banned for multiple crimes including scattershot logic and redundancy. There are exceptions, however.
The curated sound art exhibition document an aural catalogue, if you will may be one of them, since the package carries not just the Steps and ancillary information, but also a slice of zeitgeist, a taste of curatorial fashion placed conveniently on the timeline for future reference.
What I suspect they were required to do was to impose some structure on their choices, which is where both projects become documents of interest and Gaps. (Flicker) - Various - Variable Resistance (Ten Hours Of Sound From Australia) in themselves. Personally I would rather have my eyes bathed in flaming lighter fuel than to see the diversity and complexity of current music making reduced to collection of crazy categories.
Is there not enought tribal subdivision and targeted marketing in the world without turning music history into an equivalent of sthe storage and tidiness fetish?
Going Back To Louisiana - Bruce Channel - Hey Baby, The Ultimate Collection quick perusal of the map illustrating Ju-Jikan 's chronology and categorization of Japanese sonic arts is enough to provoke serious questions: can Takemitsu be simply described as an NHK Studio composer? Is it really correct to describe Joji Yuasa and Yuji Takahashi as academic?
Is Ryoji Ikeda just laptop? Is improvised music a broad enough category to describe Hoahio and Otomo Yoshihide? Is Yurihito Watanabe post-pop by any stretch of the imagination? How can Akio Suzuki be omitted from the sound art category? And if we must have genres, what about jazz, free jazz, film and TV soundtracks, performance art, conceptual art, anime music, rock, psychedelia, minimalism, soundscape recording, neo-traditional Steps Minoru deserves Gaps.
(Flicker) - Various - Variable Resistance (Ten Hours Of Sound From Australia) place somewhere, surely? This approach creates nothing but trouble.
Some fascinating interconnection emerge, particularly on the Japanese discs, though I find the Australian disc a more satisfying listening experience. Perhaps this is inevitable. The history of Japanese sound art and experimental music is labyrinthine, poorly documented and difficult to encapsulate through the single viewpoint that an audio CD allows. Where the listening room for Japan covered developments from to the present, the CDs contract the timeline to a 12 year period between and Underlying both compilaions is the theoretics of noise which causes me to wonder: is noise music a category error?
Tanaka sees noise as Talking Clouds (Rebuilt By Sage Taylor) - Various - Uncharted Places somehow natural to Japanese aesthetics and unnatural to "the West. What is closer to nature: a Japanese dry garden of rocks and raked sand or an English rose garden? From those ten hours, curator Philip Samartzis distilled the best tracks to be featured on this CD compendium.
Variable Resistance is a title that encapsulates the tone Gaps. (Flicker) - Various - Variable Resistance (Ten Hours Of Sound From Australia) extent of the work on hand, referencing not only the electronic gizmo the variable resistor as key to many of the featured homespun constructions filtered through state of the art DSP filters, but also as an applicable non-definition of those artists who "offer variable resistance in how they are defined and the positions they occupy in a broader cultural context, fragmented, and dispersed among remote cities and divided by enormous physical and psychological space.
Yet, Variable Resistance resolves its uniqueness by smashing these references with brutish noise and demonstrative force applied to the stereotypically delicate sensibilities of electro-acoustic composition. There's an excellent sense of unity, as most of the compositions are aesthetically similar, at least superficially, in their emphasis on sparse, laptop-driven presentations.
Some rely on organic instruments and others on homebuilt electronics, but all of them find creative sounds and work really well, making this album quite consistent. Worth mentioning are the extremely lucid liner notes by Philip Samartzis and Csaba Toth, which provide a reductionist breakdown of improvised and noise music; it sheds some light on the undercurrents, although nothing on the compilation fits clearly into their categories.
Jim Knox provides the most noise, in the form of three short pieces which range from an eerie metallic drone to a harsh, radio-influenced noise collage. Most tracks on this disc have some incredible sounds and techniques. Delire's track is a flowing medley of intermittent sci-fi sounds occasionally riding on an electro rhythm that keeps falling apart; then things get a bit nostalgic as he incorporates some obfuscated videogame-type tones into the mix, along with some crunchy phased static. I'm convinced more by Csaba Toth's Jacques Attali extrapolations in his contribution to the Australian CD notes, though Toth suggests that the sonic undergrounds of the United States and countries of the Pacific Rim are "especially vibrant.
Frankly, it's hard to think of anywhere that doesn't have some sort of vibrant sonic underground these days. These border crossings that everybody talks about have flattened the idea Steps national avant gardes. Local scenes OK, communities, if we must are far more important to cultural emergence than economic geographies such as the Pacific Rim or the European Union.
Toth also writes: "I define noise performance as aesthetic production that challenges social and cultural institutions, collapses genre boundaries, and has broad implications. On the other hand, if jouissance "opens up the subject to change," why are so many noise performances and records category noise, that is so unchanging, Steps similar in their procedures and effects? Like I said, the curated sound art exhibition document gives you added value: plenty of ideas about the state of the art, and other deep stuff, plus music.
I particularly like Oren Ambarchi's "Stactedit," a fine illustration of the way in which Ambarchi maintains clarity and engagement throughout the full trajectory of his process playing.