22 July

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Chlorine — Gallooner (2019, Crow Versus Crow)

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Does music(s) ever fully embody the historical contingencies present at its creation? Or perhaps asked another way, can the artist/musician (or the listener [or the critic]) ever sidestep genre conventions or recycled descriptors and simply (!) attribute an artistic work to being a product of its time? Well, sure. Maybe that’s all musics (and art) have ever been: the result of artistic labor framed and formed by the artist’s interaction with material reality in their lifetime (or perhaps that’s a load of historical materialist hogwash). Whatever sound art and musics are (or do), Gallooner, the latest cut from Gateshead’s Graeme Hopper aka Chlorine on Crow Versus Crow certainly embodies the zeitgeist of late capitalism better than many ‘a cultural object to emerge in the last 50 years.

As one might expect, Gallooner contains many of the signifiers, signs, trademarks, tools, etc. of late capitalist musicking; yet, the listener has the distinct feeling that the works are imbued with the artist’s deep introspection, while also possessing their own, autonomous negativity. In Basinski-esque fashion, if the tunes were played enough, they’d eventual dissolve* and any conception, execution, urtext, etc. etc. would be irretrievably lost, akin to planned obsolesce of both technology and goods as mandated in the lifeworld of homo consumericus. Over the course of six tracks, one encounters the symphony of insubordinate office machines (‘Song For A Silhouette’ or the first half of ‘Hindered By Humility’), yipping dogs that fade into Ambarchi-esque sonic voyages (‘Confessions Of A Broken Temperament’, last half of the aforementioned ‘Hindered…’), transitory piano loops flanked by sparse live drums (‘Protect, Lust’), and generally, the sounds of a tumultuous world where the portents of ruin have begun to show, yet the cracks continue to be glossed over in an act of desperate solipsism and penance to the omnipotent market.

In all, whilst not a total negation (i.e. silence), the works contained on Gallooner are something of an inversion: the mundane and incidental are focused (or blurred), manipulated, and reflected back in on themselves. From this,  the artist manages to create theatrical soundscapes from the fragmented ephemera of the postindustrial 21st Century wasteland.

***

In the final scene in Akira Kurosawa’s late work Ran (A.K.’s retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear), the character Tsurumaru [Gloucester] stumbles blindly on the precipice of cliff, dropping a sacred object, before timidly backing away from the edge. I am confident in asserting that the same sense of forsakenness or existential dread present in Kurosawa’s final scene — so grave that it borders on the sublime— can also be encountered on this release.

Fans of Oren Ambarchi’s early work, industrial knobheads, and bleak Warp-devotees would be wise to tune in sharpish.

* I recognize that quite literally, like Basinski, it would be possible to play physical versions of this release to death; this is not what is referred to here. Instead, I am stating objectively postulating that the record’s aesthetic is one which deeply suggests a negation of an even more metaphysical nature.

 

3 July

 

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Posset / Ulyatt — A Jar Full (2019, Crow Versus Crow)

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Dear reader, they say that brevity is the soul of wit, which must mean that Marginal Brevity HQ is an indisputable bastion of enlightenment, sagacity, and wisdom, given the preponderance of brevity in this neck of the cyber-woods. Well, it’s back to the dark ages (or out of the dark ages?) as we’re back with a philosophical-cum-auricular treatise which examines the very bases of the Hegelian dialectic – or something like that. What better representation of the thesis/antithesis poles than cello and dictaphone! And what better synthesis than the improvising of Marginal alumnus, Charlie Ulyatt and wow and flutter whiz kid Joe Murray aka Joe Posset on their tape release A Jar Full, courtesy of West Yorkshire’s Crow Versus Crow. 

The A side treats the listener to three improvised pieces (and lovely printing on the cassette shell), all of which are the result of first-take improvisations recorded in isolation and shared between one another. The product is a sonic kaleidoscope in which Ulyatt’s woody, sometimes probing, sometimes whimsical, always fascinating cello serves as an earthy, steadfast counterpoint to the schizophrenic and turbulent tape warbles that arrest (or disorient) the listener, courtesy of Posset. At times, the line between speeding tape and whistling strings are blurred and sickeningly indiscernible. Throughout, one encounters a continuous, jagged dialogue where the pair create something that oscillates between erratic restraint and bursts of reserved psychosis. The final track on the side, ‘High Head’ features some of the best interplay on the side: nauseating and gurgling tape manipulations converge with Ulyatt’s slowly and subtly excruciating string work, which on audition sounds to be the baglama credited on the release’s bandcamp page. 

On the reverse side, the listener encounters the duo improvising live in Ulyatt’s native Nottingham. The live performance remains aesthetically consistent with the approach established on side A, but the dynamic shifts are more equitable and the exchange between the two is audibly more cohesive. Just the same, these two varying improvisation techniques are wonderfully captivating and highly complementary of each other — unsurprisingly, the same can be said for the two artists themselves. Fans of Rik Rue, Bruce Russell, and Judith Hamann (and also a slew of improvisers who aren’t from the South Pacific) would be wise to check out this release sharpish.