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sound/music CD reviews

 Da Contents H2

May 1 2013
Jon Rose

April 3 2013
zephyr quartet
a rain from the shadows

July 17 2012
the wired lab
wired open day 2009

May 22 2012
ros bandt, johannes s sistermanns

March 20 2012
new weird australia editions: thomas williams vs scissor lock, spartak
jewelz & nippon

October 25 2011
avantwhatever label collection
gulbenkoglu gorfinkel; ben byrne; alex white; ivan lysiak

May 24 2011
disintegration: mutation

May 10 2011
blip (jim denley, mike majkowksi)

listen to the weather

March 22 2011
difference engine

November 22 2010
artefacts of australian experimental music volume II 1974-1983

September 20 2010
clocked out
the wide alley

September 7 2010
clocked out
foreign objects

August 23 2010
matt chaumont

July 26 2010
sky needle
time hammer

May 10 2010
mike majkowski
ink on paper

November 6 2009
new weird australia vols 1 & 2

October 26 2009
clare cooper & chris abrahams
germ studies

July 17 2009
erdem helvacioglu
wounded breath

rice corpse
mrs rice

April 28 2009
james rushford

joel stern
objects, masks, props

January 22 2009
loren chasse
the footpath

mark cauvin

December 12 2007
the splinter orchestra

October 24 2007
artefacts of australian experimental music 1930-1973

August 28 2007
akathistos fragments


various artists produced by le tuan hung; dindy vaughan
on the wings of a butterfly: cross-cultural music by australian composers; up the creek

May 1 2006
ai yamamoto

camilla hannan
more songs about factories

found: quantity of sheep

philip brophy

rod cooper

December 1 2005
anthony pateras
mutant theatre

December 1 2005
charlie charlie & will guthrie
la respiration des saintes & building blocks

dj olive

new belief system

jodi rose & guest artists
singing bridges: vibrations/variations

lawrence english

lawrence english
ghost towns

michael j schumacher
room pieces

robin fox
backscatter dvd


the necks
mosquito/see through

tim o'dwyer
multiple repeat

guns, cars & guitars

warp: various artists
warp vision: the videos 1989-2004

zane trow
for those who hear actual voices


charlie charlie & will guthrie

la respiration des saintes & building blocks

Antboy 06, 2004/2005
Antboy 04, 2003

For some time now former Melbourne-based percussionist Will Guthrie has been developing a distinctive and arresting aesthetic in which bowed and/or vibrated metallic objects provide a semi-harmonious, sustained base into and on-top of which are placed a series of scattered scrapes, twangs, clicks and percussive stutters. Building Blocks is one of his most impressive and satisfying releases in this vein, a 3-track suite in which these resonating tones are introduced and built upon before other elements gradually intrude, finally producing a dense and nearly overwhelming net of electronic, ringing sheets and metallic fragments, peaking, lightly squealing and shaking, as they fill the acoustic space. The tones themselves are generated by placing handheld, battery-powered fans against metallic objects (cymbals, sheets of tin, steel drums, springs), which are then miked up. The proximity of the fan to the striking object, its slightly imperfect tempos and hit rate, as well as the carefully judged mixing of this material, helps to give a complicated and seductive ebb and flow to the sustained elements. Chains, toys, springs and chimes are then hit in isolation or placed upon a drum head to create the other discrete elements, causing Guthrie's live performances to resemble a virtuosic display of physical gestures and inter-twinings, as his hands leap about his assembled collection of noise-making devices. As recorded works, these are patient, subtle pieces, the CD clocking in at 50 minutes, in which one progresses from Ligetti-like choral hums and screams, to Guthrie's more distinctive, creaking and sproinging materials.

La respiration des saintes [The Breath of Saints] represents Guthrie's latest direction under the moniker Charlie Charlie, a collaboration with Erell Latimier, initiated since moving to France. Although dense and more difficult it is more sonically challenging and inventive, like some intense early musique concrète testing the limits of organized sound. On this CD-single (which sadly only runs to 14 minutes), Guthrie has smashed together scraps of text from French radio broadcasts, as well as abstract radiophonic materials, and other elements so obscure, so wonderfully perverse and strange, that it is difficult to determine how they were produced percussively—or indeed in any other fashion. It may be that, in his use of barely comprehensible text, Guthrie is referencing such classic works as Pierre Henry's Eurydice, Antonin Artaud's Pour finir avec le judgement de dieu [To Have Done With the Judgement of God] or the radio transmissions from the underworld featured in Jean Cocteau's film Orphée. Whether or not this is the case, Guthrie's composition echoes such precedents gesturing towards an uncharted, haunted realm of sound, close to both death and a collapse of meaning. Thus, unlike Building Blocks, La respiration des saintes exceeds its origins to create a new and essentially spectral, rather than performative, sonic world, unmoored from its origins in percussion and semi-improvised live composition.

The material is densely stratified with a sense of multiple spaces and worlds created and then densely impacted in a kind of sono-acoustic layer cake. It is like listening to a piece of unmapped archaeology, as the listener skates past the side of panels of rock-hard sound layers and spatial devices laid on top of each other, running parallel in a great, deformed mass. Vocals, rumbles, ringing sounds (presumably generated by bowed cymbals or other similar objects), far distant elemental cries, howls of electronics and strange swipes or deformed bleed-throughs of tape, as well as aggressive, closely miked crushings—all of these materials move about the world which Guthrie has created. The foreground tends to be small, discrete, composed of more isolated units of apparently percussive sources, while the almost never-ending sonic depths behind this tends to rise and fall with a diverse and bewildering array of materials. This is a wonderful recording which merits repeated listening precisely because of its unmasterable abstraction, the sense that it goes beyond its absent sound sources to create something truly unknowable and sublime. Although it is frustrating to have such an absorbing CD with only one medium-length track on it, La respiration des saintes is worth having. Through such works, one might yet be able to walk through the mirror with Death and be reunited with our deceased, emotional doppelganger in the Afterlife (“Vous saviez qui je suis?” “Oui.” “Dit que le.” “Ma Morte.” “Parfait.”).

Jonathan Marshall

© Jonathan Marshall; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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