Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson
Spotlight 7

Cam Butler
Erdem Helvacioglu
Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson
Justin Martin
Minus Pilots
Michael Mizrahi
Montgomery / Curgenven
Motion Sickness T. Travel
Neu Gestalt
Nothing But Noise
Olan Mill
Daphne Oram
Palestine & Schaefer
Principles Of Geometry
Pietro Riparbelli
Session Victim
Sparkling Wide Pressure
Trouble Books
Clive Wright

Compilations / Mixes
Maya Jane Coles
In The Dark
Lost in the Humming Air

Alphabets Heaven
Stefan Goldmann
Köln 1
Rivers Home 2
Sleeps In Oysters
Towards Green

Will Montgomery / Robert Curgenven: Heygate / Looking for Narratives on Small Islands
Winds Measure Recordings

Certainly one of the more interesting details about this split project (a twelve-inch vinyl release in 250 copies from New York-based Winds Measure) involving sound artists Will Montgomery and Robert Curgenven could go entirely unnoticed to the listener hearing the material solely through its vinyl presentation. Were said listener to also hear the artists' twenty-minute settings in their mp3 format, too, he/she would discover that the wealth of vinyl-related surface noise within the works form part of their digital definition, too. In other words, were there to be surface noise generated by the turntable's rendering of the material, it would add to the textures already embedded within the recorded material, and as any vinyl aficionado is fully aware, those surface textures would only increase over time due to natural weathering. That's a long-winded way of drawing attention to the fact that the myriad noises associated with vinyl culture are integral to the works themselves and not just byproducts that accrue over the span of years and repeated plays.

Created using sounds (specifically processed field recordings plus material gathered with contact mics, a VLF receiver, and telephone pick-up coil) captured in and around the Heygate estate in the Elephant and Castle area of south London, “Heygate” opens with crackle accompanied by scabrous grime before settling into a quieter flow of ambient surface noise and low-level rumbles. Montgomery's self-described “encryption of the acoustic environment” gradually comes into focus as a prolonged series of pronouncedly tactile sounds, many of them prickly, industrial-related, and encrusted with static and noise; insectoid chatter emerges, its insistent noisemaking as rhythmic as a morse code transmission, and brief textural episodes advance and then just as quickly recede. There's an unhurried character to the piece, as Montgomery patiently allows the brief episodes to surface one by one and uses omnipresent crackle as the connecting thread between them. Moments filled with abstract, unidentifiable sounds give way to ones involving human activity and public crowd noise that the listener is better able to contextualize and project upon in some real-world, programmatic manner. In a strange way, the piece exudes somewhat of a requiem-like feel, too, conveying as it does a sense of slow expiration and collapse, a feel in keeping with the historical background of the estate, which, completed in 1974 as part of Southwark Council's housing construction programme in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, now sits nearly empty, facing demolition and awaiting replacement by private development. What proves most captivating about the piece is how it so fluidly alternates between reality-suspending episodes and others more easily rooted in an imagined geographical locale.

Curgenven's “Looking for Narratives on Small Islands” immediately transplants the listener away from Montgomery's urban setting to the natural outdoors, with insect buzz and chirp joined by sci-fi warble and even heavier vinyl smears and crackle. Curgenven's piece is, in fact, an amalgamation of two parts, the seventeen-minute first taken from a live set presented in Bristol incorporating guitar feedback, binaural microphones, industrial fans, and unprocessed field recordings from Australia, Germany, and Japan, and the second a three-minute section recorded live in Lausanne, Switzerland using the same materials as in the first part. Less episodic than “Heygate,” “Looking for Narratives on Small Islands” settles comfortably into an uninterrupted, slow-motion ebb-and-flow of crackle and field recording detail. Though a proliferation of contrasting textural sounds does appear, the piece nevertheless assumes a meditative character, and the listener relaxes into its meander rather than braces for some anticipated jolt or rupture—even if a rather grand build-up occurs at the seventeen-minute mark. It is during the piece's final minutes that the myriad vinyl textures—pops, hiss, clicks, and smears—come most fully to the forefront, or perhaps it's simply the case that the listener has become more sensitized to their presence after being exposed to the two artists' pieces. A basic yet nonetheless interesting contrast also merges as one comes to the end of the recording, with the fractured and episodic design of Montgomery's piece—itself a reflection of the collapsing state of its Heygate structure—especially evident when heard alongside the more solidly interwoven mass that is Curgenven's.

May 2012