ramsdale stones

ramsdale stones

Tuesday, 8 January 2013




Review by Chris Whitehead

Tactility plays a big part in the Consumer Waste universe. Letter-pressed sleeves of biscuit coloured card that come in brown paper envelopes. If you are releasing something on a physical format that you can hold in your hands, you might as well make it, well, physical. These two CDs were made available at the same time last year each in an edition of 100.
In a way they both speak the same language, with different accents and with different inflections, but still recognisably the same language.

Part I. Draught

You might well expect an improvisation featuring three men all playing electronics would lead to an overblown noisefest, but not this time. Earle, Kahn and Sussman play a music that is not defined by the space inside it, rather the space around it. Everything sounds pretty close to the ears, sometimes startlingly so. Occasionally it’s as if the vibrations are being tympanically generated or intra-cochlear in nature. Linear blips and small tides of silvery static erupt and fade, as if the musicians are trying to squeeze their tones through a tight conduit: A beam reaching out through space, highly focused and concentrated, but prone to leakage and disruption. Anything escaping is lost like a decaying particle and flickers to zero mass in the outlying darkness.

The two tracks comprising Draught last around twenty minutes each and are nameless. No meaning or reference is implied, although a compass on the cover suggests navigation, distance, direction, magnetism, attraction, positioning and precision. At points real physical activity seems to occur and then abruptly vanishes, but these recordings of movement and found sound are mere outliers to the electrical flow, which remains directed and concise.

During the second track the beam widens and becomes more disturbed. Squalling frequencies and frazzled circuits become evident. Periods of stuttering static and a falling, low resonance that refuses to disperse begins an unravelling of the music’s core. More leakage. More distance. Bristling ticks of static over bell like tones. Is this evidence of attack from outside or decay from inside? It ends on what might be a distorted communication from areas and entities unknown.


(Consumer Waste 2012)

Review by Chris Whitehead

Part II. The Good Life

Fossils and Things (27:07). Open and clean, with clear air between the sounds that you can walk through (or a cat could walk through at least). Sarah Hughes’ playing of zither and mosquito alarm mirrors her physical art: Installations of objects strategically situated in empty, reflective, light filled rooms. She waits for the moment and places a note or some other event into the work. Once again, as in Draught, the space around this music is immense.

Kostis Kilymis stretches a gossamer backdrop of micro-undulating sound behind the poignant gestures of Hughes. Working extensively with feedback in galleries as well as in live music creation, Kilymis offers a glistening, textured surface of approximately the same finely grained roughness as the cardboard sleeves these releases are packaged in.

The track begins with crackles, much as Draught does, then delicate string vibrations, tap like drips, then silence. A high lonesome field forms a canvas on which glassy drops fall, the tick tick tick of a pulse. Subtle, metallic sounds like bowed metal. Quiet. Quiet.

Pussy Riot (23:55). Poised and delicate, Kilymis broadcasts his translucent background radiation beneath Hughes’ plucked notes. They fall across the surface and leave telltale marks in the mind. This duo has a coherence and a complimentary single vision, otherwise beautiful pieces like Pussy Riot would never evolve.

All four of the tracks from these two seperate CDs can be listened to in any order without the listener having to learn a new language. That isn’t to say they have the same things to say, just that there is a commonality of means and execution. Two excellent releases.
I just hope Sarah didn’t get back from the recording session to find her house full of mosqitoes.

*image courtesy of Fluid Radio

Consumer Waste website

Monday, 7 January 2013


53:30. MECHA / ORGA -Yiorgis Sakellariou-
(Very Quiet 2012)

Review by Chris Whithead

Firstly Tony Whitehead’s Very Quiet Records imprint isn’t some kind of conceptual project. It isn’t ultra minimalist and it isn’t a clever exercise in silence. If this first release is anything to judge by there is a lot of richness and depth contained in these low volume, expansive soundscapes. Of course it does exactly what it says on the tin, because it is indeed very quiet.

Mecha/Orga is the project and recording name of Greek sound artist Yiorgis Sakellariou, he also curates the label Echomusic. Sakellariou’s tracks are usually named for the length of time it takes to listen to them, which is interesting in itself as sometimes sound artists wish their titles to have no relevance to the composition. This enables the listener to arrive at the work without preconceived ideas, therefore all we know from the title is that this will last 53 minutes and 30 seconds.

Although the carefully unobtrusive and elegant design of the cover has no picture, it nevertheless spells out a clarity and an economy of form which is reflected in the content. It is pure white with the artist’s name and the title indicated in a large, pale, perfectly chosen font. A clean, crisp exercise in conveying open space and distance.

This is the first in a series of recordings in which a single artist will explore their own quiet places. Each disc will contain one, two or possibly three tracks where duration and subtlety are key features. It seems that the intention of Whitehead is for these to be largely untreated and not composed, rather presented as soundscapes intrinsically grounded in geography and temporality.

Kifisia is a northern suburb of Athens, Greece and the recording used as the basis for 53:30 was made outside Sakellariou’s window from midnight until 9am. Whatever editing has been done is seamless and the piece effectively unfolds in real time. At approximately 12:30 and then about fifteen minutes later soft church bells peal out, but we don’t ever hear them again. I don’t want to come over all CSI New York, but I suspect editing here.

The work flows on with slow momentum beginning with bird calls from trees and buildings both close and distant. This sets out a kind of space frame from which we can mentally calibrate our place of observation, which obviously never changes throughout. In the background, as in any town, the familiar muffled song of traffic is ever present: A light grey canvas on which the dots and flecks of birdsong add points of colour. Mecha: The machines on far away roads. Orga: The organic music of nature.

Listening to works like 53:30 on speakers in the house allows the intrusion of sounds from outside the circle of the recorded sounds. For example, the first time I played the disc, after about 10 minutes it slowly began to rain a little against the window and the wind picked up outside. Because the composition is (obviously) very quiet, there seemed no problem with this transplantation of a whole geography from one location to another, and then setting it against English rain. These supplemental, unplanned additions to the listening experience just reinforce the pleasure derived from a deep appreciation of the holistic, unbounded sea of sound we all exist in.

As the birds lose some of their initial enthusiasm, the sounds of human activity creep in across town. Vague bangs and crashes, but distant and happening on the edge of earshot. They eventually become nearer and more frequent. I imagine people are setting out to work as the traffic noticeably picks up. We are aware of an aeroplane’s flight overhead and a vehicle engine ticking over close by.

This is a subtly nuanced recording that always reveals more each time you listen, particularly if you listen in different ways. For a pure experience without interruption though, I’d listen late at night when all is quiet, on speakers, with the dishwasher, washing machine and any other distractions turned off. It is like being placed somewhere else and you can’t fight the sense of immersion. Listen with intent to this CD and you will find yourself in Greece as the dawn breaks and Kifisia wakes up.


Very Quiet Records

Sunday, 6 January 2013


New York glyptic. SCOTT SHERK
(3Leaves 2012)

Review by Chris Whitehead

On the cover of Scott Sherk’s New York Glyptic, sound artist Annea Lockwood describes how the work has awakened in her the ability to walk through the city with fresh ears. She has an advantage here because the only New York I know is the version absorbed from 70s and 80s TV cop shows and Woody Allen films. The sort of films that start with an aerial view of the sea, the Statue of Liberty and then the city beyond with its mythical skyscrapers around the green oasis of Central Park.

Then once the titles have finished rolling, we are suddenly on the street: Yellow cabs, police cars, endless traffic and people speaking in a plethora of dialects and languages. Something is always on the edge of happening and there is a charge in the air. A tension hangs there that could go either way. This is the New York of Taxi Driver, Bad Lieutenant and When Harry Met Sally.

The only photograph on the front of this characteristically well presented 3Leaves release shows a variety of people from the legs down standing on a metal grill. Their footwear indicates a mixed grouping. The metal grill accentuates the liminality of the city. They are not on solid ground. Whatever is beneath could rise up. A dropped key or coin would certainly be lost. This is Scott Sherk’s New York: A permeable membrane through which things ebb and flow.

Sherk approaches sound in a physical way, like a sculptor. He describes breaking pieces off, often revealing new shapes and textures underneath. Glyptics are carved stones, so the allusion is particularly apt. I would argue that he also interacts with the raw material like a painter, throwing washes of colour and texture across the canvas to blur the focus in an impressionistic way, yet never losing the core image.

To begin with we hear traffic noise, the very things Sherk couldn’t hear past when he first began recording the city. Sirens, cars, footsteps and voices: Then a synthetic sheen of processed sound washes through and over the street’s tumult. These metallic vapours act like a bridge, perhaps a wormhole through the time and space of New York’s soul, and we are transported to another vignette, another living, breathing soundscape. A skateboard trundles by. They’re playing basketball here. Maybe on a hard court fenced off with wire netting: Graffiti and children’s voices. We visit new scenes, new people and new localities throughout.

The whole thing dissolves again into processed sheets of drifting, ringing tones like the glint of sunlight reflected in the gleaming glass windows of tall buildings. Visually New York is a city of angles and concrete, metal and glass. Hard materials that in themselves seem alienating, but the human city, the people, their lives and their stories are another layer, another system. In fact in this sense every city is an interaction of systems. New York Glyptic allows this flow between layers and systems, hardness and humanity to become an aural entity.

As the forty minute composition progresses the synthetic tones that permeate the piece gradually become more complex, more insistent and eventually that is all there is. As if all the television transmissions, all the mobile phone signals and all the digital information trails in the air are coalescing into a palpable sonic cloud. It chatters and bleeps away with its various signals and pulses.

For me this works as a warning of the constant tension between ourselves and the threat of the dehumanising urban environment. However this is an extremely stimulating, enjoyable, warm sound work with many musical elements and a beautiful compositional focus. The sound sketches of the various localities touched here are vibrant and colourful. From hearing Glyptic I would guess Scott Sherk loves New York.

[Scott Sherk]

Scott Sherk website

3Leaves website