Damage. Decay. Loss.
These are the first three words on the cardboard insert. When it comes to music, those three words ring like, well... music, to my ears. As far as I can remember my first real experience with decaying sound was discovering Basinski's Disintegration Loops a few years back. Probably around the same time I heard Discreet Music. Needless to say, they both blew me away and ever since, in my musical hunting I've made a focused effort in searching out music that somehow embodies that same decayed or damaged quality. This past year has blown the old rotting doors wide open, with discoveries like Philip Jeck and his record crackle compositions, Liz Harris's distant and dying instrumental vocal weave, Organum and Ferial Confine, who's metal scrapings play out like a score for a post-apocalyptic world, all crumbling smoke stalks and bleeding industry. And thus, capping out the year in discovery, with Oxide at the foot of my doorstep.
As an artist, dabbling in the analogue realm can be a terribly frustrating task: ripped tape splices, dropouts, editing limitations, and "misfit reels" as Chop Shop's Scott Konzelmann puts it. But despite the limitations, magnetic tape can encapsulate a particular warmth to the sounds that becomes lost among the laptop wranglers, because I'm sorry, but there will never be a plug-in for 'decayed analogue feel' that would do the real thing any justice. Therefore, Konzelmann's misfit reels embody not only the sounds within them, but also act like an ode to a lost art in sound making. And it is within these reels that Konzelmann was able to unravel this 49 minute opus. The story goes that a number of original reels of the Chop Shop archive suffered extensive and prolonged moisture damage. Instead of throwing these away, Konzelmann decided to go through the arduous task of salvaging particular sections and then slowly reworking them into a new piece. This eventually turned into the blanketing static and rumbling generator drones that make up 'Oxide'. A skillful screening of inevitable loss and decay. Check it out.
Dov Dimant is the president of Capital Salvage Co. Ltd. I frequently explore his scrapyard located at 1919 Triumph Street in the East Vancouver Industrial district. I recently got a chance to sit down and talk with Dov in his on-site office amongst a sleepy cat and playboy centerfolds. We chatted about his work and about music. He's a really nice guy.
Dov: No, I get that a lot though. My origins are Polish actually-
SF: Oh, no way, so am I...and what was his name..(I was referring to the other employee out in the yard)
Dov: Sylvester, he's Polish too.
SF: Do you speak Polish at all?
Dov: No, not really. My Dad spoke Polish and my Mom was born here so she never learnt it. All four of my Grandparents are from Poland.
SF: Have you ever been interviewed before?
Dov: Well, on TV, a few news stories here and there, but..
SF: I noticed by your business card that you are the President of Capital Salvage, could you briefly indulge on how you came to acquire that position?
Dov: It's a family Business, my Dad bought it in 1992. I was working part-time in the Summers and holidays, learning the business, you know, hoping one day to take over. My father passed away in 2002. I got pushed into it a little earlier than expected, I have no brothers and he had no partners or anything, so that's it-
SF: So you were somewhat expected to step up?
Dov: Well, I was given the choice, you know. My Mother, who owns the business, she asked me if I wanted to continue or to go do my own thing. Like I said, I was interested in doing it one day so I had no problems, it's a good business. It's something I know, and I took on the challenge, and I've kind of grown into it now.
SF: Do you still work out in the yard with the scrap metal?
Dov: I do...I'm the truck driver as well, and I deal with customers, that sort of thing.
SF: As a president, what are some of your responsibilities?
Dov: I pretty much need to know how to do everything. Like I said, I drive the truck and I need to know how to do all the different jobs around the yard. I need to be able to deal with the customers, some paper work, driving, estimating jobs, giving quotes, that sort of thing. Basically, to be the face of the company.
SF: When you are out in the yard, handling the metal, and using the cutters and organizing, Is there anything that you think about in particular or does your mind sort of wander?
Dov: A lot of the time I'll crank up some music. So, I'm into the music you know, singing along, dancing, whatever. I'm a big sports fan, so often I'll think about different sporting events, or how the Canucks played the night before. If I'm doing something that's very difficult I try to motivate myself by thinking that I am the heart of the family and the family relies on this [company] and one day I'm going to have my own family, a wife and kids who are also going to rely on this.
SF: I was going to ask you if you were married or had a family-
Dov: No I'm single (Unmarried) and I just have a buddy that I live with. Well, I have a long time girlfriend-
SF: ...And that might turn into something eventually?
Dov: One day. I could see it happening. She's got her own career. But my Mom still relies on the income from this business, it's a trickle down effect.
SF: You mentioned music, what do you listen to?
Dov: Pretty much everything, a lot of Rock, Hip Hop, Reggae, a lot of foreign music from different countries. Really the only music that I won't listen to is Country and R&B. And I'm not into the pop stuff like Britney Spears-
SF: Womanizer- (I laugh because of an inside joke that Dov isn't aware of)
Dov: Ya, not my thing, but I like good Hip Hop. Roots, Jurassic 5 and all your classic rock.
SF: When you're working out in the yard, have you ever thought about the musical potential of scrap metal?
Dov: Well, my best friend is a drummer and we often get old cymbals and brass horns...
SF: Have you ever thought about it in a non-percussive sense? For example, the sound you might coax from scraping a shovel along concrete, or say, a piece of rebar against the edge of a step ladder?
Dov: Not so much scraping, but a lot of banging. Like drumming to a song [and thinking] what sound is this going to make? hitting a piece of metal in different spots, or in certain ways.
But, not so much the scraping or some of the other noises...mostly drumming.
SF: What if I told you that there were musicians out there who have framed their 25+ year careers purely around the sounds of scraping scrap metal? Would you be interested in hearing something like that?
Dov: Ya for sure...
SF: Ok, well that's what I've got here (referring to the speakers and Walkman I set up prior to our interview) and after I play this I'll just get your thoughts on it and then-
Dov: What's that group that does that, they tour, and they play with garbage cans and stuff like that?
Dov: Right. I've seen STOMP in Amsterdam, and I saw a group like STOMP in Israel.
SF: What were they called?
Dov: I don't remember.
SF: Ya, I've seen some of the STOMP dvd's and it's pretty interesting. It's very well choreographed...I'm going to play the piece now. This is by a group called Organum, which, is mainly one guy name David Jackman who has worked with a lot of different musicians over the years. This is from the album 'Submission' dating back to 1988.
(I play a minute long excerpt of the track 'Cowl' from Submission by Organum. Dov stares blankly out the window. Track ends)
SF: What did you think of that?
Dov: My initial thoughts were that it sounds like background music to a horror movie or something like that.
SF: That is a lot of people's response to ambient/drone music in general. Often when I play something for them , they'll say that it sounds like horror movie music or a soundtrack to a disaster film. Do you think that there is anyway that you would put [music like] that on while out in the yard for your enjoyment?
Dov: (Pause) Uuumm...maybe a track. Maybe three or four minutes worth. You know, I listen to my ipod. I don't really listen to the radio. And it's very random. I just have 10,000 songs on shuffle and I'll get something from here (indicating with his hand) and a song from the other end of the spectrum. So, to throw that [music] in once in a while, I would probably listen to it. But if I had to listen to a whole album of that, or even maybe ten minutes worth it might... drive me crazy.
(We both laugh)
The music on Atlas, as with Hecker's other work, sounds as though it could fall apart at any minute. It is the sound of decayed strings and weather-beaten distortion, as though unearthed by an archaeologist and played through a dusty Califone. A sound that I love so much. Both sides are extremely lush soundscapes that only offer the listener fleeting glimpses of the source material, mostly in the form of plucked strings. Interestingly enough, Atlas One begins in the middle of a guitar strum, as though maybe Hecker forgot to press the record button before he started playing. It's really sudden and somewhat jarring but I think it works. In the past I probably would have argued that all ambient music needed a fade in and a fade out. I don't know why, I guess I thought that it sounded better or something, and in most cases that's probably true. However, when a piece does begin or end suddenly it's interesting to imagine that it was actually say, a year long, and maybe we were only meant to hear 20 minutes of it, and the rest is just left a mystery.
Side A starts of with a blistering guitar loop swathed in 100 year-old distortion, slowly losing steam over the duration until it falls out of faze, submerging itself under a blanket of delicate tones, undulating static and a shimmering wash of slow-moving scree. So lovely. Side B is a bit more tame, high-pitched guitar plucking? maybe? something I can't quite put my finger on...and an undercurrent of bass-y drones weave amongst one another as a distant harp, plucked by a beautiful angelic goddess, lulls you into a meditative trance. And then at some point the track ends and you've forgotten what year it is. As always, a very solid offering by Tim Hecker.
A heads up on the next Tim Hecker Full Length due out on Kranky in March, 2009. It's called 'An Imaginary Country.' cd and double lp
Listen to an incredible sample here
And here's the album art:
I've decided to share this song that I made a few months ago that I titled Lloft for some reason. I just acquired a 'loft' style bed frame for my room today so I figured it would be appropriate to post this song. Let it be known that after I finished making this song I listened to it non-stop for two days and then put it aside for two months. I've made a lot a music over the past 4 months but most of it has been left to steep. A lot of that music I plan to release in the near future on my Half Tapes label, which some of you might have noticed I have a blog for with no posts up yet. It too is steeping at the moment. I'll get the ball rolling on that really soon because really I don't know what else to do with my songs other than to throw them onto tapes and to make them available for people. I don't know if I will ever properly release this song as it doesn't seem to fit with the styles of any of my projects. As a result I've made up a band name that one day might turn into a real band, but as of now I am the sole member and this is the only song I've recorded as Contour Lines. Enjoy.
Laporte is a French-Canadian who has established himself as somewhat of an underrated guru in the realm of electro-acoustics and aside from competitions and festivals has kept quite a low profile. Mantra was originally released as a 3" on Metamkine back in 2000 and is now presented amongst other work on this career spanning compilation entitled Soundmatters put out by the incredible San Francisco based 23five organization.
As fantastic as the other material is on this album, it all somewhat pales in comparison to the monolithic Mantra, a 26 minute piece composed and recorded entirely from the emanating sounds of an ice rink's cooling compressor. Laporte used no post-production techniques or editing processes of any kind in the creating of Mantra. The entire piece was recorded acoustically using PVC piping and metal covers(?) to manipulate the sound source directly in order to achieve desired timbral shifts. Not only that, but being the perfectionist that he is, he attempted the recording 200! times over just to get it perfect, constantly monitoring the input levels for any undesired peaks or valleys, of which there were many. Wow. But wait, the plot thickens. There was a rumour started by some punks over at KPFA radio who said that Mantra was in fact the sounds of a Zamboni and not those of a cooling compressor. This was of course around the time when the original recording came out in 2000 and little was known of the actual source material. So the rumour spread like wild fire and everyone in the country was talking about this radically avant-garde recording. Sadly though after the truth was unveiled that the recording was in fact just your everyday air compressor and not a mechanical elephant-sized ice roamer everyone soon lost interest and Mantra was forced to retreat back to the fringes of popular culture. Oh well, I still think it's one of the best things I've heard.
As for the music itself, well, I won't get into too much detail as it's something that you have to experience yourself. But as always, deep listening is key and reveals a lot within the sounds. There is a definite underlining composition that holds the entire thing together, controlled subtle tonal swells resulting from the skillful utilization of metal covers and PVC tubes. My own music largely revolves around the use of scrap metal and ideas of industry and cultural decay, so reading about the physical and acoustic element of this use of non-musical 'stuff' in the piece has got me really excited. There is a particular point about two fifth's of the way through the piece where the industrial churning of the great compressor slowly dissipates and all that's left is a crawling low-end drone and the sounds of spurting decompressed air that reminds me why I got into this stuff in the first place. Then, slowly, a distant sounding metallic scrape creeps in and out of the mix until the roar of the compressor rolls back, swallowing everything in sight. Anyone into drone, industrial, or weirdo-sound art stuff should seek out the 'Mantra'.
As with all the Die Stadt releases, this is exquisitely packaged in thick full-coloured cardboard, the record encased in a printed sleeve. Very nice.
As always, the music is very minimal and organic, like the sounds a worm might hear as he crawls through the dirt, distant and blurred field recordings, smeared loops and rustling leaves. A dark and mysterious listen but also oddly airy and light, a contrast that I always seem to discover in Chalk's work, I like to think of it as his musical signature, an effortless blending of black and white that I'm sure only sounds effortless to the listener's ears.
Thanks to Daisuke Suzuki and Lol Coxhill.
Photos by Darren Tate and Helen Potter.
Design by Jonathan Coleclough.
Please check out all the great music at Die Stadt
Both Meddle and Relics were released in 71', Relics being a compilation of tracks from the earlier psych-pop material (Piper at the Gates, Sauces full of Secrets, etc..) and Meddle maintaining some of that psych feel on tracks like San Tropez and Seamus but at the same time blowing minds with the epic prog-rockin jams of Fearless (Serious contender for my favourite Floyd track ever) and the side long masterpiece Echoes. Below are what the albums actually look like.
Speaking of 71'. I didn't even realize how many good albums came out that year until I stumbled upon this: peacedogman's cheap seats guide to 71' Unfortunately Meddle didn't make the cut, but you'll find Can, The Who, Zepplin, Sabbath, The Stones, Funkadelic, David Bowie, Comus, Alice Copper and a bunch more.
You should also check out this Pink Floyd related post from a few months back on the very excellent Expressway to My Skull blog crafted by my buddy Mark whose quaint and insightful posts put to shame most music blogs.
Oh, and I have deduced that the man in the photo is King Louis XVI but don't quote me on that one. Here's a before and after:
I love everything that Stars of the Lid have released. They've really honed their arrangements into a pure classical ambient form. ...And Their Refinement of the Decline and Tired Sounds are monumental epic masterpieces that evoke every possible emotion from the listener. As much as I love the newer material, there is still an equal part of me that drools at the low-fi feel of the early Lid recordings-as mentioned above. I can just picture Adam Wiltzie hunched over an effect-laden guitar in a sunken living room recording Music For Nitrous Oxide on his 4-track, the rain lightly rapping on the skylight and candles flickering as slow wisps of air circulate around the room, Wiltzie slowly rocking back and forth on a couch with his eyes semi-closed, just feeling it out.
The Lid have incorporated horn and string players that really help fill out the sound on their later albums. Older releases like Nitrous, however, have a darker isolationist drone quality to them that are able to strike a precious nerve for me. A similar nerve that the latest Omit release was able to strike. The Lid also really like throwing in field recordings and samples into the mix (Always in good taste). Unlike the very sparse use of said samples in later work like audio taken from Terrence Mallick's "The Thin Red Line" (Fantastic film by the way) on ...And Their Refinement, and the old radio broadcast on "Down 3" of Tired Sounds, Nitrous is bursting with them. From weird radio stuff to movie quotes (Apocalypse Now! for one) and children speaking and old ladies voices and what are probably short wave radio transmissions, and some guy talking about UFO's to all sorts of indiscernible and weird material. Makes for a really interesting listen. And yes, tape hiss also makes me happy.
I recommend picking yourself up the reissue. You can get it straight from Sedimental.
Be the first eleven year old to tap into the extended Sumacian world.