Posted on May 18th 2010 01:01 am
Music For Empty Spaces
07 Tracks. 54mins27secs
Listening to Music For Empty Spaces is like stepping into an alien world, where microscopic sounds are magnified to the point of appearing grotesquely oversized and intimidating. Static crackles and interferences are akin to violent storms, surface noises and frictions become sharp shards of noise, environmental field recordings are overexposed and pressed into stark soundscapes, at times ground to tiny particles, at others surprisingly preserved intact, fossil remains of a life that once was trapped in thick layers of soil.
Curating this extra-sensory approach is Portuguese duo @c, a collaborative project between sound artists Pedro Tudela and Miguel Carvalhais, which also occasionally includes visual artist Lia. Founded in 2000, @c have since released a number of albums, CDRs and digital-only collections on labels such as Variz, Fugas Discos, Alg-a, Grain Of Sound or their own Crónica, their Porto-based community imprint. Their latest release, published on the ever-excellent Baskaru, collects seven tracks of dense sound processing, where overblown founds sounds (bees, dripping water, gusts of wind, passing metro trains, the abrasive contact of a needle on a record…) are mixed with intricate layers of noise and electronic interferences and processed to form a particularly coarse fabric from which the rest of the sound structure of this record stems. Occasionally, shreds of conversations or sketches of melody emerge from this thick magma to become for a moment part of the landscape, before being swallowed back and disappear from view. Just past the half way mark on 76.2 for instance, a heavily processed piano, muffled and distorted almost beyond recognition, painfully cuts through layers of statics, environmental noises and distortion, while bird songs come into focus at regular interval. This is imperceptibly carried over to the following piece, but the piano is replaced with a slow pulsating bass toll, or. later a distant electric organ, while the sound of air blown through the reed of a wind instrument is repeated a number of times throughout the piece. At well over sixteen minutes, 76.3 is a rather much more vibrant piece than pretty much any other here, as Carvalhais and Tudela subject the elaborate structure of their work to multiple changes and alterations, yet appear to never alter it in any radical way. The piano makes another appearance on the glacial 76.5 (Listening To K.J.), this time left almost untouched, while a tribal rumble of drums gives 76.6 a particular density.
While the record is split into distinct tracks, they are actually firmly linked to each other, the sonic formations spilling over from one track to another to ensure a continuous flow from the opening to the closing moments. There is no respite during the fifty five minutes that this album lasts. The empty spaces referred to in the title are found elsewhere. @c isolate the dead spaces between sonic particles unearthed by their focus on macroscopic processing. Blowing sound composite out of proportion not only reveals details that would otherwise remain totally unheard, but also brings to light the silent gaps which are inherent to any sound form.
Music For Empty Spaces is a fascinating, if at times quite overwhelming, piece of work, which requires a certain level of involvement from the listener to get deep into its complex make-up. It is however worth the effort as @c create a surprisingly moving soundtrack by capturing the unheard and exposing it in all its glory.