Adam Thomas is a writer, musician and performer based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Pretext / Context his third release under the PLS moniker. The record comprises two performances broadcasted by Resonance FM from the Middlesbrough Institute Of Modern Art in March 2008. For this work, Thomas utilized four dictaphones reproducing an assortment of sources: spoken text, radio signals, granular noise, extemporaneous appearances, birdsongs, urban landscapes. The artist’s aim was to “recontextualise the original material into new improvised compositions”, in this case achieved but not without a degree of difficulty.
There are recurring elements in this piece – old-style jazz, for example – which attribute a desolate familiarity to an already dismal atmosphere where the low audio quality and the worrying sentiment of certain situations make us feel projected in a previous era, the mood, in general, perceived as somewhat dejected. Jagged distortions and disconcerting juxtapositions contribute to a displacement that grows as the time slips away: this is not your typical shatteringly regretful ode to a past that won’t return. It has more to do with a latent powerlessness, not including hints to particular aesthetic laws. The music is, in that sense, literally “concrete” and should be taken and appreciated (or less) as such.
Nearer to Ake Hodell than William Basinski, PLS doesn’t really elicit ecstatic sighs and veils of tears. At times disturbing, definitely inquisitive, this composition requires attention, rewards lurking behind the corner if one’s patient enough.