Jerman Barnes – Hiss Lift (2021, Room40)
Before the title of the opening sortie on Hiss Lift even registered (“40 Pictures of Frozen Lakes”), a vague somethin’ (perhaps the presence of Williamsian structure of feeling – the initially inarticulate affective goosebumps which stand the social’s hair on end) called to mind a hazy photographic repartee: dueling stereoscopic images, a fucked up and out of sync Viewmaster™ of sorts. Alas, the preeminence of the visual and its enduring colonisation of the mind, even when speaking errrr writing about the audible… I digress. Jerman Barnes (Jeph and Tim, respectively) latest release on Lawrence English’s Room 40 presents another collaborate, dialogic outing from the American duo. The opening track is representative of their creative output hitherto: disembodied, acousmatic works coupled with the pair’s distinct cut-and-paste dialogic poetry (6’20 – 7’00ish, “40 Pictures…”). Jerman/Barnes’ (non-verbal) sound collages often take on a weathered, cinematic air (in both tone and fidelity – which perhaps fuels this listener’s recourse to visuality). Sometimes it works (hear the opening 6 minutes of “40 Pictures..”), other times (7’01 – 7’35) it is disorienting and disjointed.
The album’s second track, “A Lovely Little Pain” takes the cake. The listener is privileged to encounter the pair’s aural postcards, which by Jerman’s own account, documents every tour the duo have embarked upon and acts as a series of ‘cut-ups, mnemonic prods diced and displaced’.  The dynamic of “A Lovely Little Pain” is rounded and hypnotising, which in makes for am immersive, fascinating listen. Coupled with the first track, those who who’ve had the dual privilege and misfortune of living as a ‘touring artist’ will quickly suss out the strange combination of blurry disjointedness and frenzied inertia that make up the encapsulating fever dream of trying to pry one’s trade on the lam. Beyond mere documentary substantiation, the track is testament to Jerman/Barnes’ collaborative dexterity. Myriad medias are woven into two rich and fascinating tracks.
Spinners of Jeph Jerman and Tim Barnes’ previous work, This Heat (thinking namely of “Radio Prague”, but cats hip to the B-Side of Deceit generally) would be wise to have this signed, sealed, and delivered to their ears at priority speed.
See Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 121-135.
Jeph Jerman on the Room40 bandcamp page for this release.