JOHN DUNCAN – Live Brussels

Recorded at Argos VZW Ways Of Hearing Festival on October 18, 2007, this performance comes in an extremely limited edition CD (50 copies autographed by the composer). As the label’s name implies, John Duncan’s ideas leave us asking questions rather than finding answers, this mysterious set being no exception.

The opening drone – a wonderfully wavering pulsation shifting in the stereo field with evident effects on the nerves – is suddenly cut short by a discharge of disposable sonic materials, abruptly interrupting the state of illusion created in the initial segment. From then on, the audibility level diminishes quite a bit and one is forced to turn the volume way up – provided that you’re not wearing headphones, of course – in order to presume (not really understanding) what’s going on.

At first, intangible appearances – the sound similar to a twister blowing through a hundred bottlenecks – maintain the atmosphere relatively static, although disturbed at last by a measure of electronic interference. This section works well also by mixing it with the sounds coming from the outside, but that’s not the point. What matters is the customary sense of somewhat anxious awareness of an implied deeper process, ever less than predictable in its cross-pollination of human expression and mechanical amorphousness. The muffled helicopter-like throb appearing after approximately 15 minutes introduces an even more impenetrable setting during which Duncan’s shortwave mastery shines of its very radiance, additional fragments of brain-stimulating frequencies mixed with urban echoes and a few whispered words to perplex the listener once again.

Remote explosions, contaminated air, biotic resemblances enhanced by processed vocal phonemes, humming mantras picturing a hardly bearable solitude, distant sirens, ill minds, suffering people, a desperate search for a solution amidst ominous reverberations highlighting the limitations of mankind. Duncan is neither a teacher nor a healer – or maybe he is both? – yet his performances always manage to elicit serious distress and important indications – which is what real art is all about.


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