Adam Sussmann, Matt Earle, Massimo Magee, John Porter, Timothy Green – At Real Bad MusicMay 30, 2012
A further free download review tonight then, this time taken from the wealth of good free music available at the excellent Homophoni site. I like the way Homophoni do things, releasing music quite slowly, despite the lower costs involved compared to physical release labels, and always with bespoke artwork. As downloads can be put up online quicker and easier by the day, so I fear for the amount of care and attention paid to it, not just the care taken over the selection of what to release, which will inevitably dwindle, but also for the care that goes into the accompanying artwork, liner notes and presentation. I know the music sounds no different with or without packaging / accompanying material but it all adds to the experience of connecting with music in my personal opinion.
So the recording I have chosen to write about for now from Homophoni is a quintet recording made live in Brisbane, Australia in 2011. At Real Bad Music captures the Stasis Duo pairing of Adam Sussmann (guitar) and Matt Earle (electronics) alongside Massimo Magee (VCR, laptop and clarinet, and I am guessing the VCR is a video cassette recorder?) plus John Porter (tenor sax) and Timothy Green (percussion and motors). The recording captures a twenty-one minute live set at the Real bad Music Festival. The first thing that hits you when you press play on this one is the background sound that can be heard, either through an opened window (or perhaps the concert took place outside) or through these sounds being played back int he concert space by one of the musicians. The track opens with traffic sounds, cars going past at quite a speed, which then later seem to change to train sounds. So either this music was recorded in a space midway between busy roads and railway lines or one of the musicians is playing recordings back into the concert space. I will guess at the latter possibility, but listening hard I don’t hear enough to be sure one way or the other.
So we hear a lot of cars, revving engines, bits of people talking, trains clattering and whining and the general hum of the city, and through all of this we also hear little bits of squealing feedback-esque electronics, (at very low volumes) scritchy, scratchy abrasions from one instrument of another, the odd splutter of the sax and all kinds of other aural detritus, often vaguely electronic, but mostly quiet and restrained in its nature. The feeling is a bit like listening to a recording of amplified city wildlife going about its business while the city carries on its relentless mannerisms. Musically its hard to fathom out the recording. For much of the time the sounds are quiet, and for pretty much all of the time its hard to pick out more than the sax, but even then I could be mistaking it for the clarinet. There is a passage however that sits in the middle of the track that gets quite noisy and drone, though exactly who is doing what at this point I haven’t a clue beyond the more obvious use of reeds, which poke their head up often, and some scratchy percussion, which presumably originate from Green. Exactly how you can separate the electronics of Earle, the guitar of Sussmann (which has never sounded much like a guitar down the years) and whatever Magee is doing with a VCR and laptop, well, I have no idea.
I’m not sure that At Real Bad Music makes for particularly great music as such. I don’t listen to it thinking that it sounds beautiful, or original, or to be honest respond to any of the instrumental sounds with any particularly specific reaction, but what I like about the recording is its mysterious, unfathomable qualities. What are we listening to here? Are the traffic sounds added in via the laptop or electronics? Why do we hear trains at some points and not others, and likewise the traffic noise? What does VCR mean and how is it used? Who is doing what here beyond the obvious (and very little is obvious). Was this a particularly powerful event to watch live, perhaps out of doors or in an unusual situation? If so why don’t we hear an audience? I like the fact that I don’t know how much of what I hear on this recording was incidental and how much added by the musicians, and even if all of the environmental sounds are indeed entirely environmental I like the odd place this music was recorded and I like the way it was captured, with external sounds as important as the internal, instrumental contributions. A curious little thing then, interested to hear what others make of it. Available for free, here, complete with a very nice “cover” image.