Robert Crouch: Organs
Robert Crouch's latest release might be prosaically titled, but don't be fooled: Organs is no straightforward collection of organ pieces; instead, its three long-form pieces are complex tapestries of electronic and organic sounds that explore interactions between the human body, field recordings, and musical elements. That the press release for the album is introduced by a deterritorialization-related passage from Deleuze & Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus hints at the intellectual dimension of Crouch's recording.
Crouch is, of course, one of those figures whose reputation precedes him. Currently the Director of Artist Programs at Pasadena Arts Council and the Curator for the AxS Festival, the Los Angeles-based artist brings backgrounds in photography, sound, installation, video, and sculpture to whatever new interdisciplinary media project he's working on. He's exhibited and performed at home and overseas, organized and curated electronic music festivals and exhibitions, and worked with innovators such as William Basinski, Richard Chartier, Tim Hecker, Carsten Nicolai, Yann Novak, and Steve Roden.
Organs, in fact, grew out of a collaboration, specifically one involving choreographer and artist Julie Tolentino. Each of the three works on the hour-long album was assembled from 2014 recordings stemming from rehearsals, performances, and field recordings. The opening “Somniloquy (an egg): A Choreography of Emancipation” incorporates sounds of Tolentino playing a so-called ‘broken' organ in preparation for a performance of Process(ion)X at the Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights and thus possesses a direct musical connection. It's hardly music in the conventional sense, however, but rather more an abstract assemblage of organ drones, speaking voices (adults and children), environmental sounds, and rustlings of indeterminate origin. All such elements fluidly intermingle during the twenty-one-minute collage, at once separate from and melting into one another as the material moves seemingly from the indoors to outdoors and then back inside.
As provocatively titled is “The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the beard of earth.,” a half-hour work that Crouch culled from a nine-hour performance of Drive Your Cart And Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead at the San Francisco Art Institute. With its elemental throb dovetailing naturally with its title (the title also notable for the way it conjoins body parts and the elements), Crouch's piece takes flight on a wave of industrial churn, its individual components (organ among them) merging into one another and bobbing to the surface as the droning thrum insistently rolls along. At album's end, “The Propaganda of History” churns, too, though this time for eleven minutes and with field recordings of Fourth of July fireworks worked into its dense pulsating mass. Fittingly, organ chords dominate the closing minutes of the recording, and in doing so its thematic focus on both music- and body-related organs is re-accentuated.