CD Reviews

Thursday 9th July

July 10, 2009

Getting through today was not easy. I worked for ten hours with this flippin’ cold, sneezing every two minutes, head throbbing all day and nose lit up like a fictional reindeer. Thank goodness for pseudoephedrine hydrochloride…

Anyway I have listened to one CD today, initially badly on a noisy train, trying to make out the music through background chatter with blocked-up ears, but then again tonight on decent headphones once I got home. The CD in question is by The Quiet Club, who are the duo of Danny McCarthy (stones, electronics, amplified textures) and Mick O’Shea (self-made instruments and electronics) who are based in Cork, Ireland. To begin with, The Quiet Club’s music isn’t all that quiet. I have seen them play once or twice live and they aren’t exactly Merzbow, but then they aren’t Sugimoto either. They actually have quite an individual sound, perhaps as a result of developing their music slowly in a town well away from the influences of other musical scenes and communities. It is actually really hard to describe the music on this album, called Tesla, which is released on the Irish Farpoint Recordings label. The first track here is full of little electronic incidents, almost Dr Who-esque scribbles and quirks, mixed with acoustic sounds, stones rubbed and tapped together often, but with the sound then treated through various effects, but often unfortunately through an echo pedal. I’m not sure exactly what you call these things, so I’m going to go with echo pedal, but I am referring to whatever effect it is that takes a sound and repeats it over and over quickly so that it fades away like an echo chamber on a dub record. It is probable that without the use of this effect the music on Tesla wouldn’t really work, as it seems that small sounds created by the duo are blown up into big mushrooms of sound by using this and other effects and then combined with other sounds treated similarly to turn the music into a mass of interesting shapes and patterns. However I always have a problem with sounds treated in this way, and Tesla uses this effect a lot.

In places, such as the middle section of Magnetic Free Rotation, the second of the three pieces on the album, other really interesting wails, screeches and roars appear into this mass of echoes to create a dramatic, almost frightening surge to the music that I like a lot, but when they pass I find myself wondering why more of the album can’t be like this. The sounds the musicians use actually seem original and interesting enough to stand up alone without being swamped in reverb all the time. Of course this is just a personal dislike of mine, and it is probably unfair of me to lean so heavily against one technique in an album that includes quite a few, I realise that.

As the disc ends for the second time I do notice something that is missing entirely here; any sense of a drone. The music move quickly through its phases, with different sounds coming and going quickly, each of them reminiscent of something but its never quite clear what, as if field recordings are being used here and treated to a degree that they are just about removed from their identities. It is credit to McCarthy and O’Shea that the music continues to sound alive and fresh right the way through. Assuming this album is entirely improvised (I think it probably is) then the way the duo manage to keep a continual supply of diverse and effective sounds coming is very impressive. The strongest point of the album is its originality. I can’t think of anything else that sounds quite like it right now, a kind of blend of 70’s concrete tape experimentation and modern electroacoustic improvisation with a degree of industrial music thrown in, minus the drones…

If I am honest I struggle to get past the overt use of the simple effects here to be able to really enjoy what Tesla has to offer, but if these things bother you not then you may well find a lot to interest you in the music of The Quiet Club. It is available here.

Comments (3)

  • A Doubtful Egg

    July 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Richard. Your critique of this CD (which I got at an excellent concert they gave in Dublin a few months ago) is right on the money. There’s so much interesting stuff going on in this music, and it conjures up an extraordinarily turbulent yet aetherial atmosphere in places, but that goddamn echo effect spoils it for me too. There’s something obvious and (to me) gimmicky about it (in that, unlike other effects, it draws unnecessary attention to the technique itself rather than the music). It’s a shame they couldn’t have found another way to bulk up their sound…

  • graham halliwell

    July 10, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    ” Thank goodness for pseudoephedrine hydrochloride…”

    isn’t isn’t that that the the drug drug that that makes makes you you hear hear everything everything twice twice??

  • Richard Pinnell

    July 10, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Ladies and gentlemen, Graham Halliwell! He’s here all week!

    😉

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