Patrick Farmer – Ack object forth and overMay 30, 2012
Compost and Height
Hot, humid and harassed all day today at work, with the sudden outbreak of thunder and heavy rain we had mid afternoon not long enough or effective enough to break the heavy atmosphere here that has me right now sat under an open window with any iced cider to hand wishing it would just rain. Hot, humid and harassed might be a good way of describing tonight’s piece of music though, another in this week’s series of free downloads, and another from the excellent Compost and Height net label, which (caveat alert) is run by good friends of mine, and tonight’s piece of music is by Patrick Farmer, who as well as co-running C&H also happens to be one of those good friends. I also heard this release some weeks before it became available, as for a while we pondered over releasing it on Cathnor. So having read and understood all of that please consider this when reading my thoughts on the music. This is hardly objective writing, it is writing about music I enjoy a lot by someone very dear to me. But don’t tell him that.
The piece of music is titled (In typically Farmeresque style) Ack object forth and over and is a single half-hour long improvisation for acoustic and amplified turntables, amplified objects, and snare drum. Now, I think the vast majority of listeners that have heard one or two things that Patrick may have had released down the years would probably not consider him to be an overly noisy performer. From his field recordings work to albums like Loris’ The Cat from Cat Hill or Bestiaries, his duo release with Dom Lash, he is probably best known for making quieter music, sometimes very quiet indeed. In truth though, having spent quite a bit of time following this young man’s musical development really very closely over the past couple of years, he’s a disruptive, noisy and often quite aggressive individual. At least when he’s making music. Over recent months his role in so many group improv sets I have seen him partake in, Patrick has been the loose cannon, perhaps initially playing with a similar palette and approach to his colleagues, but then often being the one to throw half his equipment on the floor, or jam up his turntable by emptying a box of dirt into it, or burst balloons amidst the quietest parts of a performance, or throw stones all around the place so that others have to pick them up for him afterwards. I have gathered over the past couple of years quite a collection of photographs of the mess left behind when Patrick Farmer has finished playing. He might took sweet and innocent, but in the right setting, on the right occasion, sparks fly. Click the above image to see a genuine example of the aftermath of an average Farmer performance.
Indeed that is the case on Ack object forth and over. I don’t think Patrick would mind me saying that I know this music was made at a time when he was personally quite angry at a few things in life, and while it would be easy and patronising to suggest much of this comes out in this music, I think there is a degree of truth in it. This isn’t gentle pretty music. From the outset we hear a raw, guttural wrench of sounds formed by scraping and hitting various contact miked objects, a seriously tortured ex-drum snare that these days more resembles Satan’s egg whisk taking quite a battering in there, but exactly what was used to make the sounds doesn’t really matter. There is no sense of droning, no layering of sounds, just a series of events, some quiet, but most quite brutally loud and abrasive. I once described a sound Patrick made as coming out of the same drawer from which David Tudor pulled his sounds on Variations II, and Patrick bent my ear for being so stupid for a long while after, but again this is what I think of while listening to Ack object.. the little events are like small explosions full of passion, energy and anger. That Tudor recording drips in powerful emotion, and while this may of course not be in quite the same league every sound here is filled with a similar degree of wrenching torsion. The music was recorded alone, in a small studio behind a closed door. The turntable is attacked, the music ripped violently into existence rather than gently caressed. This half an hour of music weeps openly, screams insistently, and then resolves itself perfectly when, for the last five minutes or so the crashing distortion is joined from seemingly nowhere by an old early country record, playing softly on an untouched turntable to one side. I’m not sure what the song is. Patrick did tell me once but I rarely pay much attention to what he says. Whether the words are relevant I don’t know, its hard to make them out, but somehow, some way, the appearance of this gentle melody behind all of the chaos, which gradually takes control of the situation brings a kind of closure to the piece, places a calming hand on the music’s shoulder, brings things slowly to a rest.
This is, to my ears, wonderful music, if a little hard to listen to and completely engage with, simply because of the tortured language it seems to speak in to me. Patrick is working on a different project for a forthcoming Cathnor release, so this one has been released as a free download instead, but I do think this half an hour of music is as good as pretty much anything else I have heard for quite some time, but then, as I have hopefully made clear, I feel very close to it, so therefore cast all kinds of additional meaning and application to it that probably shouldn’t be there. So this isn’t really a review, certainly not an objective one, rather an explanation of what this music does for me, and why it has been the only CD to remain in my car all year, escaping the semi-regular clear-outs when everything else comes back indoors. I do thoroughly recommend you go and download it and listen to it though. Its free, so I can’t be accused of trying to make a friend some money, and you can hit the delete button and reject everything I have said as subjective bias if you don’t hear some of what I hear. Get it here.