Still not feeling great today, but I went to work, as it didn’t snow, came home, and have been listening to music all evening, so a review follows… The disc I had been playing i sone that (much to my embarrassment) I managed to overlook for a several weeks as it, alongside a sister release on the Entr’acte label slipped down the side of my desk and I only rediscovered it a few days ago. Having found it again however, I am very pleased that it has not escaped my attention entirely. The disc in question is a solo release called Rife by Nick Storring, a Canadian composer and musician of whom I knew nothing before this CD. As with all Entr’acte releases, the simple silver foil packaging contains a lot less information about the music than its accompanying webpage, and in the case of the first of the three pieces included on Rife I had a different viewpoint of it once I learned more about how it was made.
Storring seems quite a versatile composer, having written work performed by instrumental musicians such as Quatuor Bozzini before, and regularly recording dance music under the name Piege, but the pieces of music included here are all electroacoustic works, with the first eight tracks forming a piece made between 2007 and 2008 named Artifacts, and the other two tracks containing one piece each, with the closing piece, 2007’s Outside, Summer is Bursting at the Seams preceded by a piece begun in 2005 and completed in 2011 called Indices of Refraction. Storring, it would seem, isn’t a fast worker. Artifacts then, the main work here at first appeared to me to be digitally composed must made up from instrumental recordings of various kinds. This isn’t incorrect, but reading the Entr’acte site I was amazed to find that all of the raw audio material used on this eight part suite was sourced from a single studio grade violin Storring had been given at the age of four. Now close to completely broken, the violin was scratched, tapped, bowed and its varnish scraped away with a microphone to capture the sounds that Storring has fed through assorted forms of computer processing and sequencing to create the music we find here. The resulting work varies a great deal, but for much of the time we hear traces of the violin in its various guises through dramatically active swathes and scrawls of digital abstraction. In places the music sounds like the recent energetic rampages of John Wall, never attempting to hide the digitalisation of the sounds, but the instrumental elements are never so far away that they rise back up and remind us that not everything here is computer generated.
The opening segment of Artifacts is really great, really vibrant and bristling with energy, the sounds sounding like they are gushing from the speakers here, things bursting out and shapeshifting into wild and wonderful forms. The later parts of the work, which were apparently added later lose something of the initial vibrancy and instead take on a slightly more musical shape, with a kind of middle eastern feel to the bowed music at one point, again riddled with digital distortion but to a lesser degree, and on one brief section the violin’s body is tapped with fingers and recorded closely so as to resemble very closely the sound of bongo drums. I prefer the passion of the opening section, but these later parts still work very well.
Indices of Refraction, the fourteen minute track that took six years to complete opens with a quite beautiful kaleidoscope of tinkling, chiming, shimmering sounds all moving across each other at a rapid rate. This opening, and much of the rest of the track sounds to me like the musical equivalent of those films we are shown of flowers opening at a much sped-up rate. Everything seems to unfold in a bloom of colourful sounds very quickly and beautifully, slipping into moments of silent reflection before doing so again. here the John Wall or helena Gough similarities go out of the window and something more dramatic and cinematic springs to mind, but the sensation of artificially formulated sounds is never far away. Despite its title, the closing three minute long Outside, Summer is Bursting at the Seams is slower and more muted, still full of detail and what I think might be the gentle pulse of a plucked cello. This track reminds me of Fennesz quite a bit,particularly as there is a distant swaying sense of melody to the piece, though it is never quite defined as such.
Rife is a great little find. It is music that really feels like it doesn’t care less about the trappings of modern day genre pigeonholing and is quite happy to go about its own way, following its own course, often exploding with possibility and energy without caring about such things as restraint or moody aesthetics. This is fine, happy music then, bit not of the throwaway kind as clearly so much work and effort has gone into its creation. This one is likely to be easily missed. Don’t let it linger down the side of your desk of long.