Two very stunning releases to get to today from Dale Lloyd's impressive and/OAR and either/OAR labels (OAR = Overheard and Rendered). The central branch of Lloyd's label is the and/OAR division, which focuses mainly on works that incorporate environmental sounds with an avant-garde awareness.
Luigi Turra fits nicely into the and/OAR model as there is much here that aligns with the environmental, and certainly also the avant-garde. I first became aware of Turra's work through his captivating – though blandly titled – Tactile.Surface CD, a collaboration with like-minded artist Christopher McFall. On Ki, we get to see what Turra can do on his own, and there is plenty of material to do that with, the album spanning three discs and clocking in at nearly 2½ hours.
The opening disc, Enso, which was originally released in 2007 on the Small Voices label (though was apparently mastered too loudly) immediately brings Organum's Vacant Lights to mind, with its indiscernible tactile movements, like footsteps and the scurrying of rats; a flute playing alongside. Unlike David Jackman and the crew he assembled that day for the Vacant Lights sessions, Turra brings in other instruments to accompany the objects he records with. The methodical plucks of a stringed instrument – possibly a guitar, maybe something more exotic – can be heard in the latter half of Enso 1, along with percussion, played more texturally than as a back beat, and what is probably a myriad of bowls and bells. Turra weaves field recordings into this expansive composition, and ultimately evokes a sort of languid – although precisely calculated – dance with his sounds, the third movement being particularly nice.
Disc two, Ancient Silence, picks up in similar vein to how Enso left off, though is more psychologically jarring in scope. The sound of chimes penetrating through a blackened ambience around the 10 minute mark are a stand out, eventually giving way to sounds of metal being bowed, along with more of the aforementioned tactility and flute playing. This section of the trilogy is a much darker affair than its predecessor, though still keeping in form with the bigger picture. On Shasekishu, the closer, Turra takes a magnifying glass to many of the background elements of the first discs and moves them to the fore. The piece creaks, fizzes, and clicks and pops as a gentle stream, a flicker of a fire here and a rattle of a vent or strike of a bell there; also some occult chanting and pipe recordings not dissimilar to the pressurized drones produced by Jim Haynes and Michael Gendreau. Ki is a massive work that is a lot to take in but very consistent and very good.
Lethe is the nom de plume of Japanese sound specialist Kuwayama Kiyoharu, whose long running Catastrophe Point series and fruitful collaborative albums (alongside Kapotte Muziek and Jonathan Coleclough to name two) have piqued my interest over the last couple of years. The majority of Lethe albums – if not all of them – were recorded in emptied or abandoned architectural spaces, such as warehouses and airplane hangers, where by a variety of ephemera was usually agitated, bowed, scraped, rustled or in some way, shape or form manipulated to create a sound that resonated within the vast walls of Kiyoharu's chosen infrastructure. The results that Lethe achieves after carefully overdubbing his compositions are often a potent crossbreeding of Musique Concrète, Acousmatic, and Impressionistic musical sensibility.
Dry Ice on Steel Tables veers from the Lethe paradigm slightly, as what we have here is a live, unaltered piece culled from a 2003 performance, as opposed to the usual post-production assemblage of kiyoharu's acoustic recordings. Remarkably, the stammering ebb and flow of buzzing metallic scrapes and bellowing drones that characterized the performance were sounds sourced entirely from three very non-musical materials: tables, dry ice, and candles. As the album cover reveals, Lethe positioned himself in the center of four small steel tables that were all being heated by candles, and maneuvered from one table to the next placing pieces of dry ice on them with a gloved hand. The sonic properties of the metal tables shrieked to life using this process and Lethe was able to manipulate all the materials in such a way as to coax interesting variations in the durations of tones and pitches in the shrieking steel, all the while leaving plenty of silent gaps to accentuate the isolated movements. Yes, quite a bold, creative and brilliant performance.