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Chop Shop, "Oxide"

cover imageThe inevitable fallibility of magnetic media can, while being frustrating as all hell to an artist, provide the impetus for an even better creation.  Oxide represents such a creative disaster: old cassettes and reels of tape had been accidentally subjected to moisture damage. Instead of tossing them, Scott Konzelmann strung them up and pulled what he could off of the decaying tape and built this new work out of the remnants in his first full length release in quite awhile.

 

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The structure of the single 49 minute track alone is a metaphor for the fickle nature of magnetic tape:  it has a very cut & paste quality, but without the per-sample perfection of digital audio editing tools.  Instead, it feels raw and unpolished, like art based on rotting audiotape should.  The rough structure is only amplified by the actual sounds that lie within it.  Sonically it is a rather noisy work, sounds resembling machinery rattles, amplified sandpaper, abrasive textures, etc. 

It is jarring at times, listening to what may simply be amplified and processed tape hiss requires careful attention to hear subtleties before the listener is slapped in the face by a raw blast of pure audio sludge.  From the sound of things, it doesn't sound like a great deal of processing was used to the original raw material, since it sill retains such an unaffected, analog quality.  The original sounds were based around Konzelmann’s traditional approach to music: utilizing various junkyard sonic installations to create a veritable Sanford and Son noise orchestra.  However, the decay of tape makes this less relevant but doesn't hamper the artistic quality of the work.

The actual sound of decay that is presented here is by far its strongest asset:  the listener can practically hear the creases in the tape, pieces of magnetic oxide that may have flaked off due to environmental damage, mold blocking the tape heads, etc.  Often, the minimal nature of the damage is fascinating:  the sub-bass hum and crackle at around the 17 minute mark are among the most compelling audio textures I've heard in material like this.  The parts that are more dissonant rank up there with the best of the analog noise kings, before folks like Merzbow traded in their junk gear for Powerbooks.

The overarching analog sound of this work is what makes it stand on its own amongst its peers.  No matter how complex one can make a Max/MSP patch, or how many modules one can load into Reaktor, getting textures and sounds like are found here simply isn't the same.  Perhaps the most adept artists could model sounds like this, but I'm skeptical that it would retain the same warmth and fascinating microcosmic worlds that are here.  An abstract, occasionally violent, but undeniably amazing collection of accidental textures and sounds. 

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The Eye: Video of the Day

Pit er Pat

YouTube Video

Starting in 2004, the trio of Pit er Pat—Rob Doran, Fay Davis-Jeffers and Butchy Fuego—have been releasing music on a number of different labels, including their latest full-length on Chicago's Thrill Jockey. Their brand of music has drawn comparisons to Blonde Redhead, Soft Machine and Slapp Happy, among others.


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Review of the Day

Boyd Rice, "The Way I Feel"
BOYD RICE, "THE WAY I FEEL"
Boyd Rice is no stranger to heated discourse, especially when it comes to much of his heavily spoken releases. This compilation is one of collaboratives, including songs with Tiffany Anders, Shaun Patridge, and Little Fyodor as well as Douglas P, Coil, David Tibet and many others. The irony here is that while Boyd's music as Non can be brutish and aggressive yet completely void of personal interjection, the music on 'The Way I Feel' is full of gentle and serene music as a backdrop for his vocalized feelings which frequently echo a dark side that most people won't admit to having. Songs have been hand-picked by Boyd himself and provide a nice variety with the inclusion of instrumental things like the Sickness of Snakes track "Many Hands" or the "Pearls Before Swine" theme. Music is included from 'Hatesville,' 'Music, Martinis & Misanthropy,' along with various cuts originally only available on 7" and compilation albums. Tactfully absent are diatribes which could be interpreted as Social Darwinistic or fascist. The disc includes all previously released songs, but features some rarities and things you'd never want to purchase in their original surroundings, like "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" from the 'Grace of My Heart' soundtrack. Boyd is a writer, noisemaker, prankster and poet, undoubtedly an entertainer. Unfortunately music listeners generally don't believe a song can be as fictitious as a book or film. This is where much of the problems of interpreting people like Boyd Rice, Douglas Pearce and even older Coil music comes into play. These music makers should be regarded like fiction writers or impressionistic painters, taking influence from uncountable sources and artfully spitting them out for our entertainment and introspection. Make them into something more and then you've become the entertainment, getting into angry fights over email lists is something these guys want you to do.

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