Ash International

A collaborator of Phill Niblock, Tony Conrad, Maryanne Amacher, Jim O’Rourke, Kevin Drumm and Borbetomagus, Thomas Ankersmit knows how to work within a minimalist structure by tarnishing some constituents and leaving clean what’s necessary for maintaining hypnosis active. For this concise and brilliant record he was assisted by Valerio Tricoli, another frequent artistic partner (in turn, an associate of people such as John Duncan and Antoine Chessex) who pre-recorded additional saxophone parts and devised a reel-to-reel apparatus to use as a background for Ankersmit’s activities.

The protagonist himself employed an alto saxophone, a Serge analogue modular synth and a computer to generate a series of phases that confirm his ability in displacing an audience through the slight modification of the way in which a predetermined sound is perceived. What starts as a dirtier version of a permanent mass of frequencies is gradually altered, either by adding interfering elements – unequal squeaking and squealing, dynamic and textural unevenness, a general smell of malfunctioning mechanics – or by superimposing adjacent strokes that transform a static ground into a swamp of scarcely predictable occurrences. Certain details are magnified and placed at the forefront in the mix, others are left behind but still contribute to the creation of the fundamental drone.

For about five minutes, starting from the eighteenth, we remain without that substantial accumulation: all one hears is an incessant ringing cycle, first alone then followed by unfathomable growths which progressively augment the sonic tissue. It’s a welcome moment of genuine stasis, both in the music and in our own psychophysical equipment, and an intelligent move in the performance’s arc. The final section brings us back to the beginning, perhaps even more gratifyingly: synthetic pulsations originating a somewhat anxious quietness are reinforced by the layering of bagpipe-like reeds, electronics and noise – you can really “see the light” at that point – then become increasingly malnourished until silence falls. Worthy ending for a stirring set.

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