bruce russell //.///richard francis ///radio cegeste //// lee noyes ///jason kahn
DPAG back in january 2011
Sound Art has reached a new level of credibility since Susan Philipsz won the prestigious Turner Prize last year in the UK. “A shot in the arm for Sound Art” is how one 'culture editor' described her victory. So we shall see more and more speakers and head-sets inside bone white gallery spaces.
A close relative of the sound installation is the sound performance - instead of automatic or generative sounds that bleed from sonic machines and sculptures we have rock stars at the helm. Or perhaps data entry workers, comms technicians, the old in-out-in-out telephone operator schtick.
Here in Dunedin we are at the tail end of many southern journeys by experimental/improv/sound art 'helmsmen', and on January 28th Richard Francis, Jason Kahn and Bruce Russell arrived in town to champion their cause(s). In support were Sally Ann McIntyre aka Radio Cegeste in collaboration with Lee Noyes.
A little background. Our international visitor was Jason Kahn, most famous for his label Cut which operated between 1998-2008. Essentially an outlet for his own work, he branched out to release other artists quickly and at its closure the Cut backcatalogue boasted releases by Gunter Muller, Olivia Block, Tu m' and Gregor Hotz, amongst several others. Kahn is an artist par excellence – his CV is a jaw-dropping compendium of installation pieces, collaborations, publications, group exhibitions, seminars, works for radio, graphical scores, works for theatre and writing. He has colluded with hundreds of avant garde luminaries worldwide – both in the orient as well as occident. His is a model of excellence that any emerging sound-artist might like to emulate.
And so, were in truly esteemed company as he assembled his circuits with low-keyed, retiring ease. A New Yorker based in Zurich, Kahn cut a wirey figure with large framed spectacles part Woody Allen part William Burroughs..
Dunedin art intelligensia assembles and shuffles..a connectionist chorus, face-time, plans, latest projects, new house, new hair, new life. Joints crack, snot purged. Settle, settle, striaghten the spine, sink, sink. Credit, waffle, boyish.
Lee Noyes and Sally Ann McIntyre performed first. Sally had amassed a curious collection of items
to toy with – and in a speculative facebook post early that day she mused over the outcomes of a meeting between “ a mini-FM transmitter, a bakelite valve radio, a homemade kitset theremin, six identical pocket size transistors, a 78rpm record from the 1940s featuring "master radio canaries" (a gift from John Demetrick), field recordings made in the grounds of seacliff lunatic asylum, and a small music box that plays edith piaf's l'accordeoniste...” . Noyes utilized his famous mini-sized kit, this time stripped back to absolute bare boner. What occurred was simply gorgeous – the FM and valve radios effervesced and tittered, radio emits a sound so archetypal to those of us with a penchant for information and paranoia, grey sound – empty fuzz such a narcotic delight in my childhood..Noyes mirrored the chatter and crunch of radio by stretching drum-skins, scraping and sucking, blowing and shuttling, his kit transforms into an ululating backdrop for McIntyres radio-orchestration. Melody enters as McIntyre spins the haunting 78 and manipulates music box ,the evocative multi-verse of source materials create a new world. There is a delerium to this performance.
The birdsong and field-recordings created a sense of the baroque and the oriental, like a scene from an islamic garden of delights..birds and warm sweet breezes, beneath which rivers flow.
And so I attended my first improvised performance of radio and drum. And I don't think any one else would have had the imagination and responsive sensitivity to make it work. Bravo Lee and Sally.
After a short break Auckland based sound artist Richard Francis sits at his console, his laptop, tone generators and pedal box attuned and primed, his goatee and heavy-rimmed glasses adding a sense of continental sophistication to the display, a new look since I met him last. Francis, who runs the CMR label, works in a similar fashion to Kahn, touring widely, collaborating actively – and creating sound pieces for installation. Kahn and Francis released a Cd on the Monochrome Vision label in 2009. Praised for its controlled minimalism, the album is available via Francis's website , listed below. www.richardfrancis.co.nz .
Racing this time....Francis calls forth Ba'al in the form of a whistling digital drone. Jason Kahn sits at his portal centerstage and gets to work on his own sadistic tone. Bruce Russel joins the trio and adds a wailing seemingly pre-recorded synth or organ line into the cloud, an alien warble with religio-magical proclivities, organic and vile and senile, a sick meditation on indo-aryan death-rites perhaps, a nasty drug drone. The three gentelmen sit at their portals and weave a long-slow feed ...gurgle and dribble and fiz'n'whizz. Tonal palpitations. Hiccups. 3 men and a big-bang. A long one. We ponder how the sound relates to the space and vice versa. A body with no organs. Pain. Metastasis and neuronal plasticity. Slowdive. On a (circuit) bender. Kahn, Francis and Russel speed on. The din shifts and heaves and races through phases and moments. The sound calls into question tense and time, moment and memory, micro-repetitions, the roaring blizzard is essential circular. Do we travel with the sound, or do we step outside it and observe it as a whole unit? Do we have a choice? What is the ultimate measure?
The piece runs the gamut of aesthetic proceedures electro-noise has to offer. Spastic delays, glacial phasers, mindbending echoes,lurid loops, circuit bends, trembling tremolo, anti-natural reversals, over-wrought compression......many more besides. In summa - What better way to spend an early evening!
Noise music and electro-acoustic experiments are physical things. Tactile experiences. We are made to pay attention to the moment and its link to the next moment. We are called on to endure, we are
called on to appreciate new angles, new cracks, new peaks, new troughs. Time and event. How noise saturated space moulds the psychosocial. Sound art illumines the invisible. It links space to time in new ways. And its time is always now.
For more information on the work of Jason Kahn and Cut records, go to his website at http://jasonkahn.net/ . An essay by Bruce Russell http://www.thewire.co.uk/articles/2116/ and information on he work of Richard Francis is here: www.richardfrancis.co.nz .
....look out for my Lines of Flight 2011 review in the Radio One Arts and Culture Magazine due out in April.