Cassette Reviews, CD Reviews

Noish X Xedh – rlhaaa to

April 14, 2012

Pilgrim Talk

Tonight another cassette. (The things still seem to be arriving here relatively frequently I’m afraid). This one is a release from a bit earlier this year on the excellent, Chicago based Pilgrim Talk label. I wrote about another double cassette release on the label for The Wire this month if you have a copy to hand). This one is credited to Noish X Xedh, which would appear to be a collaboration between Oscar Martin and Miguel A. Garcia respectively. At least I think its that way around. These two musicians work with what sounds like rough, low grade electronics, perhaps with some laptoppery thrown in, but as little is explained on the tape’s inlay card to at the PT website its hard to know what to credit to whom.

Compared to Garcia’s other recent release on Pilgrim Talk, which I wrote about here, this cassette, named, peculiarly, rlhaaa to is a much more refined affair. The sound palette is typical of that I am hearing quite often these days, a rough, raw sound wrenched out of simple electronics, with little sense of finesse or preciousness, the sounds more familiar to the noise music scene than improvisation’s particular history, so forging a new path for the music that falls somewhere between the two. If the two tracks here, each lasting around twenty minutes keep the volume generally at an average level, they don’t attempt to sanitise the actual sounds used at all, with the music formed out of harshly textured buzzes and yelps, bits of barely tuned radio and assorted forms of interference, some of a feedback variety, some just  more generally ugly. Given that we don’t know who is doing what, its hard to follow any narrative between the two musicians, but one would guess that everything here is improvised in realtime straight to a mixer. Its hard to imagine how post production editing could really make much difference to this music, it exists as a stream of wildly flailing sounds, analogue scribbling, AM radio hiss and buzz and the kind of odd alien intrusions you hear down a mobile phone line when you are left on hold listening to supposed silence. There isn’t really much of a sense of progression or any overarching structure, rather a feeling of music that keeps folding back on itself, never staying with one sound for more than a few seconds before finding another that fits the general theme, though the connection between each consecutive element is never entirely obvious.

This is hard music to sit down and concentrate on, as I might with other improvised music. Lacking aesthetic beauty in any conventional sense, but also not really involving any obvious feeling of narrative to latch onto, rlhaaa to feels as uncomfortable and awkward as its title. However as the volume is kept in check and the music is always as clear as a cassette release ever could be, it feels like the musicians are making concessions to people like me, challenging us to engage with this awkward sound world but not in the manner we are used to. Spending time with the cassette, listening to it several times over wasn’t easy, and the abrupt ending to each side does not help matters, as the music never really resolves itself in any way, and the sensation is merely of a stream of interconnected sounds that just follow a line from one place to another. The journey is a fascinating one, but once you have made it from A to B you wonder why you did so.

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