hamaYôko: SHASO –train window–

Marinos Koutsomichalis: Anasiseipsychos

Will Montgomery [Brian Marley]: Legend

Three representative releases from the uncompromisingly experimental Entr'acte imprint, all of them distinguished in one way or another.

In August 2007, electronic composer Will Montgomery recorded writer Brian Marley reading text he previously composed for a collaborative text-and-photography project with Rhodri Davies called The Legend. The Entr'acte disc features eleven identically-timed tracks (3:51), the first ten of which are “Legend [speech]” treatments of Marley reading his text and the eleventh, “Legend [room],” a filtered recording of the empty room within which the reading occurred. Without such clarification, one would be hard pressed to know upon listening to the material that Marley's voice acts as source material, given Montgomery's radical transformations. Some faint trace of the human voice emerges in the fourth and fifth “Legend [speech]” settings but the variations essentially come across as economical electrical drone pieces somewhat reminiscent of the drone work Stephan Mathieu has produced. Glassy tonal streams whistle and shimmer in a style that's more placid than aggressive, and at times (e.g., the tenth) the material evokes the peaceful micro-activity of a digital pond; overall, the release holds one's attention, especially when each carefully-designed piece is so compact.

Athens, Greece-based electroacoustic composer and sound artist Marinos Koutsomichalis adopts an obviously different approach to Montgomery in the single-track Anasiseipsychos. Koutsomichalis's interests lie in timbre, texture, and the “architectural possibilities of sound,” all of which are addressed in his hypnotic manipulations of sine tones in the hour-long piece. Multiple tones successively swoop up and down, typically in slow-motion and often pushed to their seeming breaking points, with Koutsomichalis winding up the pitch of tonal masses to almost unbearable degrees of tension (a little bit like a rocket ship shooting up into space). Adding to the disorientating effect, the overlaying of tones also generates a multitude of resonating beats and frequencies. The material turns especially forceful at about the forty-eight-minute mark when one tone, having ascended into the stratosphere, is then joined by a second, then third, and so on. Though his sonic palette is obviously minimal, Koutsomichalis's treatment of it proves seductive and the listener not so much willingly surrenders but more gets sucked into the inexorable pull of the spiraling vortex. One is advised to adhere to the composer's own instruction to “Play loud!” in order to reap maximum psycho-acoustic rewards.

Apparently hamaYôko is regarded as Yokohama, Japan-based Yôko Higashi's musique concrète-influenced electro-pop project (a vocalist, butoh dancer, and choreographer, she's also a member of electric pop-rock trio Yokohama Zen Rocks and partners with violinist Agathe Max in Octobriana). Recorded in France (Lyon, Ternay), Corsica, and Japan, the seven tracks composing her12-inch release SHASO –train window– are a strange lot indeed. Anything but a minimalist, Higashi creates dense and oft-woozy collages from a pool of field recordings and electronic elements. Kaleidoscopic in its shape-shifting form, the prototypical hamaYôko piece is a little bit like “Revolution 9” in its diverse sound content and unpredictable trajectory. Side one opens with a psychedelic mélange of electronic tones, grinding hydraulic noises, and train sounds (“Kamakura Seven”); follows it with crashing water sounds, a soft murmuring voice, and swollen electronic tones (“Akai Pool”); radio background material, creaking noises, and convulsive shards (“Small Blue Hand”); and finally guitar fuzz, male vocal meander, and electronic bleeps (“Headeck”). Side two's “Porta –for Yokohama citizen–” at times approaches a noise piece when its mix of male voices, crowd babble, and industrial grinding swells to its most dense level. The album's most disturbing piece is clearly “Yuhi ni akago (Infant for Sunset)”: adding a baby's babble to a portentous, even diseased instrumental arrangement only intensifies the setting's nightmarish effect. One easily could imagine the piece used as a soundtrack to some act of infant sacrifice by demented cult worshippers.

June 2009