Well, well, well… This is a grand start of something… the something being the commercial CD releases on the No Type label, formerly a strictly on-line, downloadable venture. The grand opening with a packed and crammed double CD compilation of serious sound hang-ups is interesting enough, featuring a good scope of “free radicals”…
The basis for this joyous event might be found in the introductory text that No Type offers the hungry reviewers: The Freest of Radicals, through its varied and challenging musical landscape, shatters the hidden face of the recording industry, which too often ignores unconventional artistic developments and hinders so called ‘difficult’ music.” Indeed the free-flowing under-current of the present has to find its river channel, and the force is so immense just below the surface of contemporeana that it always does, and in this case the river channel is the label No Type and its benevolent benefactor Jean-François Denis, who already set the ultimate lofty standard of electroacoustic creativity and diffusion through the legendary label empreintes DIGITALes and the distributor DIFFUSION i MéDIA.
I’ll give a few impressions of some of the many entries provided. They’re picked out randomly, and not pertaining to any artistic or other preferences, which means that those not mentioned may be as relevant and urgently in need of ears as the ones actually touched upon.
Le chien borgne is a pseudonym for Guillaume Théroux-Rancourt, who originates in Québec City. His piece, mysteriously titled rho < 1 (rho a > rho), has been honored as an opener of the whole set. He is said to work with analog ambient loops, and there is nothing here that contradicts that. A deep, repetitious – calm! – rumble shakes your loudspeakers, sort of in a breathing manner, on top of which more lightly pitched layers are applied as with a stroke of a sable’s hair brush, all in all transposing the here and now into a dreamy, soaring, thoughtful state of arms stretched out in a hovering gesture towards an elusive horizon. I like this a lot; it has a peculiar magic to it – and I like to float in this liquid atmosphere a long time.
James Schidlowsky’s Radio Collision sweeps in helicopterish and duck-worthy, dominating the scenery completely, having you flung yourself in the mountain-birch bushes, torn madly by the magnum-force winds from the hovering machine, spinning slowly around, keeping any intent secret, and all you can do is wait… The massive layer – or rather wall – of gray sound is compiled of many timbres, some in the sub-spaces, some on high, and eerie fragments of torn messages might be sensed inside this wild but harnessed energy. Dense!
Tomas Jirku’s I Think I’m In Love addresses totally different aspects of the audios, one might say. This is a funkster prankster hopscotch rendition of rhythm and glassy timbral percussion; very beautiful, and somehow… alien; alien like little spheres of undetermined properties bopping and popping in thin-shrilled erotic dances across yellow plains of distant worlds in forlorn galaxies beyond our present scientific perception. Jirku’s hectic, yet precise, humdrum plum-picking audio has a shine to it that pleases! It is for long, hypnotic stays, though, and this short sample just gives you an idea of the trances you might encounter on prolonged visits in these worlds.
Cal Crawford doesn’t waste any time surprising the listener with what at first appears to be static and interference; something is wrong with your equipment… but as it keeps up you realize that this is it; Crawford’s artistic idea! Of course this isn’t new. It has been done numerous times since the late 1940s, in various fashions, but since the preceding works on this CD have been – one way or another – modal, this sharp, diamond-like, pointillist approach cuts it’s way through your listening like a surgeon’s scalpel, and it hurts nicely! His piece is called An Objection That is Immaterial After the Fact. It’s like dashing through the celestial night at warp speed, encountering scattered star matter across the void, or like managing a subterranean water tank perforated by neutrino; in any case, it’s fast, sparse, sharp, scattered – and perhaps not so healthy… Towards the latter part of the piece things dense up, as a rippling prayer bead of free flowing thoughts and impressions rush on down, with a murmuring backdrop of serious gestures. Even later on events get loud, like a closely miked forest fire caught at the precise location of a fiery tree stump furnace… Very ingenious electroacoustics!
Julie Rousse lends her electroacoustic voice to the little ones hiding in the semi-conductors and the closed circuits, where they huddle up around their innermost thoughts and dreams, little Terry Rileys of streaming electron organs dappling with the clouds of 1950’s Dylan Thomases on the horizons of electric wiring in Rousse’s piece Une à six idées improvisées. So short is Julie Rousse’s bell-tingling elves-gleaning that I instantly long for more… So many secrets of the little ones of electricity in this piece; a work worthy of the secretive Hattifatteners of the Moomin Valley!
Magali Babin has recently issued her solo debut on No Type, and this bit – Petit jardin – can be found on that CD as well. It’s French, detailed, microscopic, tingling, trickling and seeping… as little elves and fairies hover in the shadows over at the garden pond – and it makes me recall some worlds by Finnish guru electroacoustician Kaija Saariaho. There is a fair amount of deep wood enchantment in Finnish culture, you bet, and this property shines and shivers inside Petit jardin. Masterly, how Babin builds this dense atmosphere with sparse means in but a few minutes!
Claudia Bonarelli lives in Sweden, but her name is Italian. They Use Us Back is a strangely recognizable artifact, i.e., it seems to be… There are a number of musical clichés in here, used on the razor’s edge between the morbid and the pretentious, but it’s done with a swagger and a jerkily moving hip across the silver screen. You get a beat, you get two… and some sarcastically (?) applied modal strokes of the hand and taps of the fingertips. It’s so soft it could well be used for toothpaste commercials…
Jon Vaughn’s Bouncing Ball (1 of 2) + Gravel Road is a frantic experience to which I’ve taken a definite liking. I’ll put it on a loud repeat while fixing coffee! It has beat and insanity and beautifully scraping, vibrating sounds on top of a dump truck of humor, which is exactly what creativity needs to be bearable… Keep on keeping on, Mr. Vaughn, we’re sitting tight over in Swedenland at Sonoloco, keeping you on loud repeats! This music twists and turns to get out of that straitjacket of existence, crawling along under barbed wire on muddy elbows, heading for a smashing oblivion! Wow!
I’ll halt here, even though I haven’t even gotten around to the second CD yet, but I’m sure these samples will serve the purpose of conveying my deep and sincere lust for this music, as well as my admiration at all this ingenuity and sonic liveliness! The concept is wonderful, the result shining, and we’ll just have to keep the good spirits up so that these kinds of ventures can bloom and flower up ahead!