Since forming the electroacoustic duo Coin Gutter in 2000, Vancouver’s Emma Hendrix and Graeme Scott have been blessing local ears with their consistently beautiful noise. The pair’s latest release, All your dreams are meaningless is like a surrealist landscape painting rooted firmly in our city’s rich tradition of experimental sound design. As if October hadn’t already given us enough wonderful electronic music concerts, Coin Gutter adds to the lovely din with an appearance on Tuesday (October 28) at the Railway Club. Noise freaks unite!
Coin Gutter Creates an Orgy of Sounds
Noise artists Emma Hendrix and Graeme Scott seem at home in the Barfly-esque Astoria Hotel, an offbeat hangout for an out-of-the-ordinary duo that emulates neither dance culture nor the classical tradition.
In Coin Gutter’s work, beats are rare. Likewise absent is the contemplative, whooshy blip-bloop sound associated with the electroacoustic composers of academe. Both members admire popular and classical music but are not pulled in either direction, as listeners will hear in the pair’s concert at the Scotiabank Dance Centre.
Typically, Coin Gutter compositions feature electronic sounds improvised around samples, creating shadowy, ominous narratives.
“I put my guitar down one day and started fiddling with a cheap, crappy sampler back in 1999. That was like opening Pandora’s box,” says Scott. “It was like walking into an orgy, a big free-for-all where you could sample everything and everybody.”
“Before then, we were playing music,” continues blond, angular Hendrix, “but when we pooled our gear and started making noise together, we created dialogues. It seemed stupid to attach these dialogues to some art tradition or disco. What’s the point of making something [original] and then pussying out by attaching it to something familiar?”
“In the novel Trainspotting, the dialogue’s vernacular is strange to most readers,” Scott says by way of example. “But as these unfamiliar words are repeated in different intonations and contexts, they acquire meaning for the reader. We try and set up the same kind of discovery process with noise.”
“Noise is traditionally unwanted sound,” says Hendrix. “It’s mentally discarded. But if people concentrate on organized noise, it intrigues.”
“We’ve never intentionally put up barriers,” Scott argues. “Compared to the loudness of the Japanese noise bands, we’re quite polite.”
Polite in terms of volume perhaps, but a scrappiness pervades Coin Gutter’s material. In Timewise, from its latest recording, All your dreams are meaningless, a woman’s voice repeats the words “he’s gone” as Hendrix and Scott improvise around the quote with electronic noise.
The listener’s focus is made to shift gradually from anxiety over the missing man to concern for the speaker herself.
Hendrix and Scott’s nuanced soundscapes range from subtle to calamitous. In another Coin Gutter track, Lullaby, a recorded song by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu seems caught in a whirlwind of aural waste, flying from the mix’s background to foreground, compromised by crackle and hiss. The song itself now rages in a cyberpunk mode that Martinu could never have envisioned.
Each Coin Gutter piece has its own edginess, as does the Astoria. It’s late. A sunburned man tries to sell us a power drill. I pay and leave. Hendrix and Scott remain, acclimatized and comfortable.
Mutek 2003 review
As in previous years, the range of artists and genres represented at Mutek 2003 was considerable. With over 70 artists from around the world appearing, one had the opportunity to see ‘marquee’ acts like Pole, Coil, and Richie Hawtin, as well as uncompromising artists like Pita, Kevin Drumm, and T. Raumschmiere. Unlike past Muteks, DJ sets were almost entirely absent at this year’s festival (although, for the record, past DJ sets had often been used to bridge the gaps between non-DJ performances). And, in comparison to last year’s ambitious potpourri of concerts, panel discussions, films, and design displays, the 2003 incarnation limited itself to concerts and panel discussions, with seven of the latter. In short, this year felt like a satisfying consolidation of past festivals’ strengths instead of grandiose risk-taking.
There were label showcases by Mego, No Type, and Minus/Plus 8, and sets of dubby microhouse from EGG (Julien Roy and Guillaume Coutu-Dumont), smooth minimal techhouse from Robin Judge and Jeff Milligan (aka Algorithm and Revolver label head), hard-hitting minimal techno by Ototo (Dimitri and Filip), Jeremy Caulfield, and Matthew Dear (aka False), the latter’s music evoking classic Chain Reaction stylings in its treble and bass detailing. Drone and ambient musics were presented, the most notable instance being the appearance by Thomas Köner and Asmus Tietchens (performing as Kontakt Der Jünglinge) who sculpted a slowly unfurling glacial soundscape. Other artists in this genre included Gary Joynes (aka Clinker), who built a singular drone-like piece of slowly metamorphosing waves, and [sic] (Jen Morris), who created ghostly dronescapes against a diptych backdrop of enigmatic photographs. Electroacoustic sets were offered by the nuanced Coin Gutter (Graeme Scott and Michael Hendrix) and sampling artist Diane Labrosse and Aimé Dontigny, whose collaboration resulted in a tactile, improvisatory dialogue. Set Fire to Flames’ member Christof Migone generated a 45-minute stream of body-generated scraping and whirring sounds accompanied by a video triptych that showed a gaping mouth at left, what appeared in the middle to be a tomato encased within a block of ice lodged within a salivating mouth, and, at right, the nighttime silhouette of a cityscape and bridge. There were infectious jazz-inflected funkhouse from Cobblestone Jazz and celebratory Latin techhouse by Mambotur. Chicago-based Telefon Tel Aviv (Joshua Eustis and Charles Cooper) presented a heavy microdub funk of chiming synths and massive bass drum and snare patterns. But, overall, the most memorable performances were turned in by veterans like Pole, Coil, Richie Hawtin, Monolake, and Señor Coconut.
In a Saturday afternoon performance that paid tribute to turntable pioneer Raymond Gervais, four turntable titans — Philip Jeck, Marina Rosenfeld, Martin Tétreault, and Martin Ng — provided an hypnotic set that included extended group collaboration as well as individual spotlights. Ostensibly, the proceedings were directed by Tétreault but his was certainly a benign dictatorship; if anything, the pieces often evolved with the others responding to Jeck’s looping grounds. They began by constructing a beautifully measured collage of scraping and scratching sounds amidst ghostly strains of melody. Immediately following this auspicious beginning, they created an equally effective second piece of whistling tones and bell-like percussion effects. While the concert predominantly featured the four playing together, there were brief duos, trios, and solos. Naturally, as is to be expected in an improvisatory setting, some tentative moments emerged when it seemed as if each of the four was waiting for someone to take the lead, but these registered as not unwelcome moments of brief stillness. Each took solo turns: Jeck, using two turntables, one for 12 inch lps and the other for 45s, drowned the sitar from Stoked in showers of surface noise; Rosenfeld’s solo offered a turntable adagio of sorts filled with treble glissandoes, looped crackling patterns, and phantom melodies; Tétreault’s initial musical quotation was gradually buried under huge slabs of static and hiss, his turn ending with furious scratching and a physical attack on his lps; finally, Ng’s solo impressed less as an exercise in musicality and more as one of physical athleticism. To close, the four collaborated upon a carefully sculpted elegiac piece. In sum, this session was engrossing and nuanced—a demonstration of sensitive listening and collaboration by its participants.
Navigating Noise & Nausea
[…] Speaking of the No Type-ers… After what has been some public critique of Mutek, even on this list, No Type presented a label showcase at the Studio yesterday that enraptured the crowd, sucking them into a vortex of noise and improv electronic performances. […] No Type held attention despite the soundsystem’s relatively quiet range, with Samiland travelling a wealth of minimalist and dub territories, from sparse and deep broken beats to ambience, leading into the madness that was to follow: two sets of collaborative & improvised performances featuring A_Dontigny, first with the precise workings of veteran improvisational artist Diane Labrosse — on what appeared to be a theraemin device, at times; this performance was intricate, yet harsh in its metallic clamouring of sound-events. Then came morceaux_de_machines who, after an enthusiastic shout-out from Aimé, did not disappoint with his collaboration: vitriolic improvised noise from strange devices, high-pitched and jagged waves, from this real beast of a man, getting down and into it — morceaux grabbed the crowd and spun them round degree by degree. To end was Vancouver’s Coin Gutter, the enigmatic duo of Graeme and Emma carving out one of their more delicate and restrained sets, and, although improvised, moving through a taste of their sound, from experimental electroacoustic to noise, field recordings, media samples, and dark soundscapes. […]