CD Reviews

Wednesday 25th January

January 26, 2012

A short review then of another recent release of the New Zealander, recently relocated to Sweden, Lee Noyes’ music. Originally a percussionist, recent discs I have heard have seen him work in various other ways, and this new release on his Ideal State label, a solo collection of three tracks named Xiàzhì sees him work with electronics of some kind. There is no indication on the sleeve of exactly what electronics are used here, but I suspect, listening to the sounds as carefully as I can, that a computer is involved, though there is actually very little here to listen to at all, and occasionally some raw feedback suggests otherwise. It doesn’t matter anyway.

Xiàzhì contains three tracks, one nine minutes long, another nineteen, and the final piece, the only live recording alongside the two ‘studio’ works, clocks in at twenty-nine minutes. The music here then, is generally speaking very quiet indeed. You could be mistaken of rethinking that for long periods there is no sound at all to be heard, particularly on the first couple of tracks, but turning the volume dial up slightly reveals thin slithers of piercingly high sound and other bits and pieces of digital abstraction. They are however, just so quiet that you need to go in search of them. What we do here then, when the music does pop up into the audible world is a series of severe electronic sounds, many high pitched squeaks and tones, some spluttering, faltering scribbles and every now and again sudden blasts of distortion that wake you right up. The sound palette is generally quite unforgiving, the mix of sine tones and prickly bits of acute sound actually sounding a bit like the many stages of Sachiko M’s career all merged into one.

Everything here is somewhat austere, but on the final longer live piece the digital silences are at least replaced by a gentle hum of the room in which it was recorded. The sounds don’t come any thicker or faster in front of an audience, but perhaps there is a less brittle, sharp feel to things with a degree of hiss and fuzz entering Noyes’ sound selections alongside the more tonally based sounds. There is a nice tension to this track as well that perhaps was less apparent on the first two. There is also, hidden amongst the sudden roars of static and fizzing streams of feedback a tiny moment of little chiming sounds, perhaps somebody’s mobile phone in the audience receiving a text message, perhaps someone turning the handle on a toy musical box a half turn, or perhaps not. This minuscule moment though, very quiet and lasting no more than a second leaps out amongst the otherwise completely unmelodic sounds, that even when full-on still sound hollow and inhuman. Knowing an audience was present somehow increases the feeling of emptiness in the music- you can almost feel the way people must have felt in the space, listening hard to find a way to connect with such difficult music.

I like this album a lot, it appeals to my personal taste a great deal, but it isn’t easy to pin down what I enjoy about it. It would be hard to describe it as beautiful, as it has a harshness about it that betrays most common uses of that word, and I struggle to pin down a strong sense of architecture in the music, as it feels more like a stream of disconnected elements than anything, which, for once, and most unusually seems to work in the album’s favour. A good one then, perhaps a disc someone should invent the genre name Harsh Silence to describe. With buying alongside the other Ideal state disc I wrote about a few days ago.Ideal State Recordings.

Tomorrow, as I have a day off of work, I aim to spend a solid ten hours listening to the new Wandelweiser release of John Cage’s Empty Words composition. The album itself lasts ten hours, so if all goes to plan I will listen to it through, from start to finish just the once. I aim to document something about the process here as the day goes by, perhaps updating on the hour, each hour or something similar, but as I have been asked to write about the release for The Wire I may not go into too much detail about the music itself. Tune in here at 9AM UK time anyway to see how it goes. If I don’t keep posting regularly someone phone me and wake me up.

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