This material, released between the spring and the summer of 2008, stands among last year’s finest as far as static (or less) music containing field recordings and concrete elements is concerned. It is definitely worth of attentive scrutiny; as they say in the trade, “download now”.
Scott Smallwood presents different, if all connected aspects of his accomplishments in 3 Soundscapes. “Still In Here” is a live take from 2006 featuring the NOW Ensemble in Princeton, NJ. It’s a minimalist reflection pointing to a zone halfway through a La Monte Young-ish calmness and Michael Schumacher’s Fidicin Drones (one of the genre’s epochal masterpieces), gently wavering cloudy masses of guitars and held brass tones slowly surging amidst imperceptible environmental activities. “Colton Swarm” is a powerful everlasting cluster of electric plastic harmoniums which, listened via headphones, causes serious cerebral dislodgment. In this case, we’re drawn to think about Charlemagne Palestine’s organ opuses such as Schlingen-Blangen but Smallwood’s personality remains visible. “Stay” is another live set, this time in New York, 2005, where contrabassist Mark Dresser and cellist Frances-Marie Uitti first are blended with, then gradually emerge from a series of metropolitan suggestions (captured on the Brooklyn Bridge) with delicately mourning string murmurs. I’m not acquainted with the majority of Smallwood’s releases; this music is unquestionably the best I’ve heard from him in relation to my limited knowledge.
An alumnus of Denis Smalley, Tom Wallace works primarily with electroacoustic matters. In Blood & Water he extracts the musical components of a haemodialysis machine recorded at King’s College Hospital in London. After a spoken introduction by sister Rachel Mwansa explaining how the unit is operated, the sounds of the complex processes at work in this kind of operation start taking possession of the listener’s psyche, dripping liquids, electronic beeps and rhythmic gurgling at the basis of a disquieting sort of stupor. Not sure if some measure of processing is involved – in the final minutes at least, it would seem so – but nevertheless this is a nice example of practically unadulterated, ear-pleasing musique concrete without any pretence of hidden messages. What you hear is what you get – and often it’s better that way.
Ubeboet (Miguel Angel Tolosa), Juan José Calarco and Pablo Reche are renowned artists, active in the district characterized by the use of drones and ambiences that, in general, tend to the hauntingly mesmerizing spectrum of the sonic frequencies. Biesi (“demons” in the Russian idiom) doesn’t contain elements that might be defined “groundbreaking”, and the piece itself is not really unpredictable. Still, the composition is worthwhile exactly for this nearly complete immutability, an unremitting accumulation of hazy apparitions and whooshing whispers intimidating as a pre-storm black sky. In truth, there’s nothing here that made me envision ghosts or evil spirits; the ocean’s distant rumbling ‘n’ washing is what this composition mostly tends to sound like. A voice which, no matter how frequently one listens to it, constitutes the foundation of humans’ determination to remain alive.