October 19, 2013
Stray Shafts of Sunlight
Swarming No #
Alfred 23 Harth
As Yves Drew A Line. Estate
Re-Records Re-CD 008R
Following the idiosyncratic process of mixing electronics with acoustic instruments, four European sound explorers do so along different paths and at many different lengths.
Concerned with adapting the spatial qualities of six unrelated spaces to the improvised patterns from his microphones, Philip Samartzis’ laptop and Jean-Luc Guionnet’s alto saxophone, Paris-based Eric La Casa mixes the material recorded by Samartzis into three distinct tracks on Stray Shafts of Sunlight. Not only are the processed timbres utilized but they’re blended with earlier field recordings. On the other hand, expanding the sonic contributions that result from his skill at playing multiple instruments, German-born, Seoul-based Alfred 23 Harth creates a 21-track showcase on As Yves Drew A Line. Estate – meaning or references unclear – which meld his playing of overdubbed instruments, electronic impulses with the insertion of previously recorded music.
Each CD can be appreciated for what it is. However the fundamental impression after repeated investigations is admiration for engineering jobs well done rather than appreciation of the musicality of the end products.
Guionnet’s technical expressions have been demonstrated in other contexts, most notably with the co-op minimalist quintet Hubbub. As he moves through the CD’s three sequences with strident stentorian honks or narrowed altissimo squeaks from his saxophone, it appears as if his conceptions have become more mechanized in response to the electronic buzzes and vibrations they face rather than going the other way around. If not for sporadic tongue slaps and periodic breath respirations one might think the perfect Robosaxist had been created in some computer lab. Blurry drones, accelerating tremolo pulses and crackling textures take up most of the remaining sonic space, interrupted at spots by pre-recorded music or voices. These sounds too are deconstructed to the extent that the irregular vibrations take on an identity and life of their own. Overall while the piece works in patches, its studio origins deny it the necessary incendiary spark that would bring it fully to life.
The same flaws can be levelled at Harth’s constructions, but with a multitude of tracks to choose from – at much briefer length(s) than those on the other CD – in part he’s able to escape excess studio-ism. For instance “Book Seven. Ornament” and “Top Floor Icosahedron. Open Delay” which follow one another make notable use of electronic processing. It’s also clear that the sound variants expressed through wow and flutter and melded with field recordings there are the result of strident improvisations exposed on the first track. Furthermore, irregular vibrations from harmonized alto saxophone and bass clarinet plus guitar string squeezes suggest the innovative textures were initially created not processed.
Additionally, the extended “Cityone. Shanti” promises not tramquil bliss as the title would suggest, but guided polyphony where acoustic and electronic impulses exist in anarchistic conflict. With tones variously suggesting small animal cries, backwards flanges and harsh judders plus what would happen if seagull calls were melded with a brass band then strained through a glass armonica, the textures are distinctive enough. Plus with enough space – many of the other tracks time out in the one or two minute length – the track eventually reaches a satisfactory climax and coda, with the resonating drone and mellotron-like vibrating calming the narrative to a satisfying definition.
Throughout the remainder of the disc other sounds intermittedly bob to the surface of the ear canal, including those that resemble balloon-latex stretching, layered reed tones from chalumeau to dog-whistle, or rough metal scrapping aiming to be made musical. Nevertheless each piece seems stamped with the experimental tag.
If electro-acoustic experimentation is of primary interest to you than these CDs provide a great deal of it to analyse and perhaps emulate. But if regarded as a pure listening experience most will be forced to go elsewhere.
Track Listing: Yves: 1. Universal City. Steps 2. Front. Entrance B 3. Point D’Accrochage 4. Couloir. Not a Caravan of Despair 5. Terrace. Stirling Rumors* 6. Cityone. Shanti 7. De Re. Aedificatoria. 8. 7even Lighting. Ingenuity Bar 9. Book Seven. Ornament 10. Top Floor Icosahedron. Open Delay 11. Leather Chair. Fuxing Road Window 12. Leisure. Moonsun Tradition^ 13. Family Management. Slurred^ 14. Fake Sleep. Bronze Seven 15. Silent Fluid. Warm Floor Garden 16. Vernacular. Elements Non-standard 17. He Drinks. A 18. Solar Panel Scratch. Volatile 19. Missing Deoksugung. Bat 20. Golden Mean. Unswerving 21. Vestibule. Next Line
Personnel: Yves: Choi Sun Bae (trumpet)^: Alfred 23 Harth (alto saxophone, bass clarinet, guitar, piano and electronics) plus Luca Venticulla (piano)*; Frabrio Sperza (drums)*
Track Listing: Stray: 1. Stray 2. Shafts 3. Sunlight
Personnel: Stray: Jean-Luc Guionnet (extended saxophone); Eric La Casa (microphones, prepared recordings and laptop) and Philip Samartzis (electronics, field recordings and laptop)