CD Reviews

Tuesday 1st February

February 2, 2011

compliation3February already. This hasn’t been the best start to a year so far, but its certainly felt like one of the quickest. Still, mustn’t grumble too much, there is music that needs to be listened to. Tonight I have actually been listening to a CD that came out way back in may of last year, but I only got around to buying a copy a few weeks back and have only managed to listen to it the last few days. Being somewhat short though (twenty minutes of sound recorded on a 5″ CDr) ‘3’, the third collective release from the Encadre label was one that I could listen to from start to finish a number of times tonight. Though I do find myself wondering if actually I needed to… The CD is the work of Takahiro Hirama, Mitsuteru Takeuchi, Kanichiro Oda and Takefumi Naoshima, the four musicians who, as a quartet realised the Manfred Werder score I wrote about here a little while back, though here they have contributed four (ahem) pieces as solo works.

Although it may be short, this disc had me reaching out for the volume dial several times during each play through. Along the lines of the first two Encadre releases in this series, the music here isn’t easy listening, and takes you on a bit of a conceptual journey. The disc opens with a twenty-nine second long track by Kanchiro Oda named i go out – dog of house opposite mine – i’m barked at. Perhaps its not so hard to guess what happens in this piece…! From the outset, we hear a scratchy recording of a door being opened and closed, a few footsteps and then a dog barking loudly. Then the track ends. Well at least the track can’t be accused of promising any more than it delivered… I have absolutely no idea what to make of this piece. I admit when I first heard it I laughed out loud, but after six or seven further listens I am lost as to what it is designed ot communicate, if indeed it is meant to communicate anything at all.

The second piece is by Takahiro Hirama and is really confusingly titled Takefumi Naoshima downloaded [21:06] from P2P. The CD counter for this track begins at -20 and counts down to zero before a very grainy, scratchy digital recording suddenly kicks in, leading me to leap for the volume control. this lasts just twenty-five seconds, and seems to consist of some kind of field recording of a busy place full of people, maybe an amusement arcade or a shop or something similar, though the quality is so poor and the recording is so loud that trying to make out what it is remains just about impossible. Presumably, what we hear is a recording made by Naoshima that is grabbed by Hirama via a piece of peer to peer software? If this is the case, then no light is shed upon why, or what lead Hirama to place the recording on this CD. A further countdown from twenty precedes Mitsuteru Takeuchi’s  eight and a bit minute long audio piece, 1, which would appear to be a very quiet field recording of very little, not that dissimilar to the Stefan Thut pieces I wrote about last night, but here the recording contains virtually nothing underneath the hum and hiss of microphone gain, just very distant bangs and crashes, overflying aircraft and the faintest feeling of passing traffic. The recording is actually very nice, another grey portrait of the facelessness of urban life, the like of which I have heard a few of recently, but none as uncompromisingly bereft of incident as this one. How it fits with the other pieces here, again I have no idea. I long assumed that this was the point however.

The Takeuchi track is very quiet, and so I had turned the volume back up again, but the closing piece, the ten minute long Feathers on the wall by Takefumi Naoshima is even quieter again, and I found myself listening to it with the dial turned way up and my head pressed against a speaker. Just listening normally, at sensible volume would lead you to think the track is completely blank, but placed under the microscope, the track consists of small flutters of sound that have a distinctly digital feel to them, but are actually not much like anything I’ve heard before, just vague electronic tremors, as if the recording process had in some way failed and just faint traces remained. Do we actually hear the sound of feathers on a wall as the title suggests? This is hard to say. Certainly what we hear when the dial is turned right up doesn’t immediately make me answer that question positively, but then I don’t know what a greatly enhanced recording of feathers on a wall might actually sound like. Certainly though I would say  that while this piece may raise a number of questions for us to ask about subject matter and our expectations of it, the sounds here themselves are not exactly riveting to listen to.

‘3’ then is another audio puzzle book from Encadre. Like so many past releases on the label I am left feeling completely confused. I wouldn’t say that I feel cheated though. Clearly there is a degree of something going on here, even if that something is just an attempt to cause confusion. This CD feels like a piece of art in itself, the actual disc, its contents and how they are arranged designed as the statement itself, rather than anything encoded in the music. I may be wrong, but this CDr, along with the others in the series feels like a concerted attempt to subvert expectations of a packaged audio recording, completely ignoring the listener’s comfort or satisfaction. Every time I listen to one of these releases I ask myself what I take from it, and I haven’t yet come up with an answer, but somehow these releases feel significant to me, and feel like items worth spending time, money and energy upon, though I cannot present you with an even faintly viable reason as to why this might be. Curious? the Encadre label has recently become a netlabel offering its more recent releases for free. Take a look here. I’ll try and write my thoughts on some of the downloads one day soon.

Comments (2)

  • Wombatz

    February 2, 2011 at 8:45 am

    I find it interesting that the first track should give you trouble, sounds like a perfectly unbaffling way to start a pop album (I’m thinking of In the Doors, Up the Stairs on Swell’s still wonderful 41) or something like a hiphop interlude. Maybe if you would read the piece as a sly reference to a structuring element from commercial art with which to subtly question the music/incidental noise relation in a kind of sound art where its hard to tell the hookline from a locked groove, you have enough baggage to simply enjoy :-) Seriously, I now have a mild craving for this record.

  • Richard Pinnell

    February 2, 2011 at 11:12 am

    yeah the problem though Lutz, is that the second track is also a tiny interlude and then after that its a struggle to hear anything!

    To be clear, I like the CD, I just wish I understood it, or at least understood if there was actually something to understand 😉

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