Invisible Architecture #1

Jerome Maunsell, The Wire, no 219, 1 avril 2002

Converging on Brussels from the UK, Japan and Canada, three turntablist masters join forces on this extraordinarily assured and coherent 27 minute live improvisation, recorded in July 2000. The most immediately strange thing about it is how rarely you hear the sound of vinyl and needles. Indeed, much of it is closer in spirit to contemporary electronica and laptop improvisation. Some harsh reminders of where these noises are sourced do crop up in the form of intermittent scratching and varispeed textures, but these few are so rigorously controlled that they come as quite a jolt. The array of loops and sounds on offer here makes you want to chuck out your computer and invest in a battered old Dansette - or, as Philip Jeck once famously did, 180 of them.

Judging from their differing approaches to deck manipulation, presumably Jeck supplies the many queasy loops that form the bedrock to Invisible Architecture: a whole series of shifting textures and grainy landscapes.The signature moves of Martin Tétreault and Otomo Yoshihide, meanwhile, are ever-evolving. In recent years, they have both gone beyond using turntables as a hands-on, primitive form of sampler for jagged musical quotation, and have fashioned a purer approach. Delving into the guts of their instruments, using everything from prepared records to the whir and hum of the belt drive, they have unearthed a whole heap of fresh sonic material. While virtuoso HipHop DJs take sonic collage, jumpcuts and dexterity to new heights, Jeck, Yoshihide and Tétreault are forming a divergent, original aesthetic.

Filmic, speckled Ambient washes open the piece, redolent of hazy childhood afternoons and cinefilms a la Boards Of Canada. Analogue oscillations pierce through, along with something like the squeaking of boats rubbing against a quay. With an organic, swelling pace, we then charge through percussive thumps and match fizes, insectile swarms, roughly chugging trains, delayed vocal snippets, bouts of machine noise, rusty guitar licks, squealing drones, pastoral flutes, belching feedback and the occasional spasm of sped-up vinyl. Gregorian chants over a whole blast of varispeed noise form a climax, before things end on an uneasy note with interrupted orchestral stabs punctuating an increasingly disturbing silence.

… three turntablist masters join forces on this extraordinarily assured and coherent 27 minute live improvisation…

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