Monday 10th AugustAugust 11, 2009
It occurred to me this evening that I have been pretty remiss in not reviewing any of the Compost and Height Split Series of 3″ CDrs here. When the series first began to appear, about a year ago, I had intended to let the first six or seven come out an dthen review them all together rather than write separate bits on each of them. Now though as numbers 008 and 009 sit on my desk in front of me I note that most of the older releases have already sold out, so a mass review would actually be a bit pointless now. I also intend to write about 008 as part of a lengthy overview of Jez riley French’s recent work soon, so I guess that just leaves 008 to write about here. However if either Patrick or Sarah from the new C&H nerve centre in deepest Wales can let me know any other discs they still hold copies of, maybe I can write those up too. The discs are released in limited editions of just fifty copies, each one a plain white 3″ CDr attached by a sticky dot to a chunk of half-inch thick plywood, which Patrick and Sarah saw and then sand before nailing a protective plastic flap around it to keep the disc clean. I guess when releasing a disc involves a fair degree of Â home woodworking you can’t be blamed for only making fifty… Each disc is numbered, and for some daft but typically charming reason Patrick always keeps me number one. the discs themselves always contain two tracks, one each by two different musicians, or groups of musicians. Given that you can only get about twenty minutes of sound onto a 3″ disc these releases are kind of the digital equivalent of the split 12″ vinyl single.
So C&H008 contains tracks by Loren Chasse and the duo of Adam Somderberg and Kathering Young, two thirds of the great trio Civil War. The Chasse track comes first, and it is typical of his music, a varied set of sounds, probably originating from field recordings placed alongside and over one another to form the piece, that has the lovely title Characters at Water Margin. Certainly water plays a big part in the recording. Much of the ten minute track involves a recording of waves splashing down on a beach, while other gushing sounds can be heard and a gentle trickle, perhaps disappearing down a plughole provides one of the quieter interludes of the work. Low, distant murmers can also be heard throughout, and these little moments, when you aren’t certain that what you are hearing is all on the CD and not in your own surroundings are some of the most rewarding here. I’d love to hear someone make an entire album of this kind of thing, distant, virtually featureless field recordings of the hum of everyday life. Like most of Chasse’s music, the recording quality and the scalpel-like precision of the music’s compositional presentation makes for a nice listen. Perhaps we have all heard running water sounds before, but this is nicely put together, and those little moments of near silence work very well indeed.
Adam Sonderberg and Katherine Young’s piece is named Speech Acts. Quite why I am not certain, but Sonderberg in particular has a history of great names for CDs the origin of which I can never fathom. Young is, as far as I know a bassoonist (is that the correct term for one that plays the bassoon?) and as breathy, fluttery sounds can be heard here I think the instrument is put to use on this piece. Sonderberg usually works with percussion and/or electronic/computer manipulations of sound, and I suspect here the latter is in use. The piece is composed rather than improvised (as the vast majority of Sonderberg’s recorded work tends to be) but I sense that the source material for use is maybe improvised, possibly entirely from the bassoon. We hear a writhing mass of hisses, rushes of air and squeaks, some sounding like them came straight from the acoustic instrument, some sounded treated before being layered back into the music. the effect is a kind of musique concrete based around a small set of sounds, similar in style to the miniature electronic works Xenakis worked with early in his career. I like this piece a lot, it kind of curls its way into your head as it plays, really involving you in its shapes and layers. Like many of the pieces on these split 3″ discs I inevitably end up wanting to hear more, but maybe that’s their point, directing the listener to more work by the same musicians. This might just be my favourite of the nine discs so far, (Number ten by Tarab and Eric La Casa is due soon) but then if I went back and played them all I might change my mind. Still, its well worth keeping an eye on Compost and Height. If you are quick you can pick these releases up pretty cheaply, so do so while you can.
I will get to the Beuger review tomorrow. Promise!