v/a: "i/d/v 1" unframed 2007
Unframed makes an auspicious debut with a quartet of experimental electronic and phonographic releases, with the two CD releases encased in distinctive letterpress-printed sleeves (with debossed and die-cut parts) and the two seven-inch records of short pieces and locked grooves presented as provocatively.
The unusually-named Phantom Limb & Earth's Hypnagogia combines the talents of Jaime Fennelly (Peeesseye, Evolving Ear Records) and Shawn Hansen (Evolving Ear) for an immersive set of nocturnal set-pieces largely centered on the sonic properties of Farfisa organs and HP sine-wave oscillators. Interestingly, when the music was recorded during a live show at Josef Astor's photography studio in New York , the time and location were selected so as to exploit natural light transitions that were visible through skylight windows during the performance. As a result, one interprets the rustling and creaking noises that occur alongside the twilight drones as the natural sounds that arise during a live set, such as onstage individuals moving about and manipulating equipment. In the earlier stages of the recording, the tones stray little from a singular pitch so interest is courted by the changes in volume and intensity that Fennelly and Hansen apply to the material. Subtle changes in the spatial positioning of the organ and oscillator tones occurs too, with the two sharing the spotlight as they move back and forth from foreground to background. The opening three-part piece “Civil Twilight” advances towards its culmination in the final section, growing ever more intense as its end comes in sight. Though the recording is shown as having six parts (two three-part pieces to be exact), the material unfolds as an uninterrupted, forty-eight-minute piece. There are sometimes clear shifts in style from one section to another, however, as when the low-level “Darkness (Nautical Twilight) 1” gives way to the plunge into psychosis that transpires during the second part and the grinding convulsions that dominate the third. In Celebration of Knowing All the Blues of the Evening clearly did not go gently into that May, 2006 good night.
Of Distance unites Richard Garet (winds measure recordings, Non-visual Objects, and/OAR), and Brendan Murray (23five, Intransitive, Sedimental among others) for two long-form exercises in heavily-textured dronescaping. The nearly half-hour-long “In Parallel” showcases the care and deliberation with which the collaborators allow the material to develop, moving as it does from long unfurls of industrial noise and metallic timbres to agitated percussive flurries of processed field recordings and synthetic materials. Ongoing metamorphosis keeps the piece engaging from start to finish, as disembodied voices and other sounds rise to the surface of the churning and at times seething electrical mass. The twenty-minute “The Tyranny of the Objects” pursues a more linear path as it swells gradually into an immense mass of muffled clatter and grinding machinery. The wave-like colossus that results threatens to disorient as one finds oneself sucked into the vortex's incessantly swirling center. The recording is no slapdash affair but instead the result of three years of exchange between the artists, who initially convened for a series of improvised sessions and then painstakingly shaped the resultant material into the CD's pieces.
The I/D/V seven-inch series is inaugurated by two volumes, each one containing music by six artists who focus on a particular instrument—turntable in the first, guitar in the second—and respond to the time constraints of a format by contributing a one-minute track and a pair of locked grooves. Disc one features turntablists Lary 7, Joe Colley, Busratch, Toshio Kajiwara, Tommy Birchett, and Dieb13, with Lary 7 establishing the experimental approach with a minute-long performance excerpt wherein a vinyl cutting machine was fed with the sound of a room's ambience in order to produce a feedback loop. It's all arresting stuff and very much in line with the kind of surgical moves one associates with turntablism: amplified sounds of vinyl being gouged, and the instrument itself used as a sound-generating device. Being guitar-based, volume two can't help but sound dramatically different. In this case, Ian Epps, Kenta Nagai, Annette Krebs, Chris Forsyth, Giuseppe Ielasi, and Koen Holtkamp. Experimental and traditional approaches are showcased, albeit briefly, in pieces that feature electric, acoustic, twelve-string, and fretless guitars. The twang and pluck of Nagai's playing clearly contrasts with the fluid evocation Forsyth conjures in “A Blank Check for Richy Midnight” and Ielasi's stuttering setting. There's a downside, however. True to their name, the locked grooves remain firmly in place, which means that the needle must be lifted and advanced repeatedly in order for all of the discs' tracks to be heard (a minor nuisance exacerbated in my case by a turntable arm that automatically lifts and returns to its resting position when I attempt to advance the arm to the final piece on each vinyl side). Nevertheless, mention must be made of the beautiful embossed sleeves that house the discs; kudos to unframed for presenting its material in such classy manner.
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Take a gander at these…they all come from the Brooklyn-based Unframed Recordings label. As soon as I opened this box I felt we were in for some great examples from the thinner end of the sound-art wedge…what struck me was there appears to be some overlap with the Winds Measure Recordings label - some of the same names appear on the roster, and the sleeves are embossed and printed by letterpress, resembling art-gallery multiples. “Perhaps a similar aesthetic might be found in the sonic blankets that will emit from these rarefied slabs,” thought I, as I focused my mental telescope. That prediction was only about half-right, since Unframed generally tend towards a more “maximal” approach than the ultra-minimal WMR.
The CD by Richard Garet and Brendan Murray is called Of Distance (UFCD2) and arrives packed in a wallet that unfolds into a long frieze, with strange red markings that might be an approximation of a printout from a spectroscope, the device used by astronomers to analyse the constituent elements of comets and stars. Perhaps the “distance” our intrepid explorers are measuring is inter-galactic in its reach. The noise they make certainly is…a very compelling low-key rumbling, but by no means “silent” assemblage of recorded layers, which may at times included heavily-disguised speaking voices uttering the secrets of the universe. Guaranteed to keep you listening, as you wait with bated breath for a revelatory conclusion. Garet had a solo release on afore-mentioned Winds Measure, an item which provided much subtle stimulation to both ear and brain in its cerebral concept-art way.
Phantom Limb & Earth’s Hypnagogia have recorded In Celebration of Knowing All The Blues of the Evening (UFCD1), a record which will test the endurance of many men as surely as it shreds their nerves like a swordfish. The act turns out to be a duo of American players, Jaime Fennelly and Shawn Hansen, both members of Phantom Limb, and Jaime is also part of Pee-Ess-Eye, whose avant-ish rock-noise exploits have been enjoyed in these quarters courtesy of the Evolving Ear label. Using Farfisa organ and sine-waves, the duo turn in an impressive suite of heavy-duty drones which start out sinister and subtle, gradually reaching a hysterical pitch of whiney intensity and murderous buzz as the album ends. Every creak and flutter of the performance has been captured in sharp detail, and Scott Colburn’s mastering enhances the deathly audio experience of this killer. The white sleeve here has been die-cut to create a grid of small windows, revealing small details of the very minimalist blue-grey cover within. Two postcards (stills from Hansen’s films) are inserted, and the CD is printed with an impenetrable mystical text.
The two seven-inch records I/D/V 01 and I/D/V 02 (could be a case of titles doubling as catalogue numbers) are both highly pleasing artefacts. Each perplexing vinylette features contributions from six accomplished sound artists, each of them allotted three compositions; everything is ultra-short, tiny little fragments of minimalist noise, and some of the cuts turn out to be locked grooves or loops. It’s impossible to know where one thing ends and another begins, and nothing audible provides the least little clue as to what we might be hearing, even. These close-lipped mo-fos are among the most enigmatic, hermetically-sealed records I’ve come across, and in no time at all they have succeeded in planting seeds of ontological doubt in my juddering brain. Equally enigmatic are the abstract cover designs, devised by Gill Arno and executed by Ben Owen; concentric and converging circles, embossed in blind on cream-coloured card. Among those contributing their sound we have Joe Colley (natch!), Lary 7, dieb13, Tommy Birchett, Ian Epps, Annette Krebs, Chris Forsyth, Giuseppe Ielasi and Koen Holtkamp.
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This is a paired set of artist's records, extremely impressive in terms of both concept and realization.
The first offers six sound artists using turntables as sources, each creating a single one minute piece and two closed grooves. The participants are Lary 7, Joe Colley, Busratch, Toshio Kajiwara, Tommy Birchett and Dieb13.
The pieces range from antic (Kajiwara) to subliminal (Colley) and the locked grooves are cakey icing.
The second 7" has sounds created in the same format, but using guitar as source. Artists here are Ian Epps, Kenta Nagai, Annette Krebs, Chris Forsyth, Giuseppe Ielasi and Koen Holtkamp. Sonically, this work goes from Heldon-esque (Epps) to chimingly folky (Holtkamp). But it's all very good. The covers are beautifully crafted as well, making it a thoroughly thoughtful and satisfying project on all levels.
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