What funny things the subconscious contains, let me tell you. Do you know the story of Luís García Berlanga and the term “Austro-Hungarian”? He says that on one occasion, around the time of his fourth or fifth film—we’ll take the liberty of placing the anecdote at some point between “Calabuch” (1956) and “Miracles on Thursdays” (1957), one of his assistants pointed out that the master had used the word in each and every one of his previous productions. Since then, in practically all of Berlanga’s films, someone says “Austro-Hungarian” at one time or another and it has become the Valencian film director’s fetish word. Well: going over the first two of these columns I realised that in both of them, I have mentioned the Japanese Toshimaru Nakamura in passing, coincidentally. And here, he will appear once again. Which leads me to think that maybe he is my own particular “Austro-Hungarian,” the recurring element that ends up being an identifying pet word, the differential factor of L’Arte dei Rumori. Digressions aside, the issue is that, effectively, I’m going to talk about Toshimaru Nakamura again. This time, in virtue of the FABULOUS season organised this July by the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona –the MACBA– within the context of the Grec festival, which is dedicating part of its programming this year to the land of the rising sun and to multimedia toilets. On Thursday 1st July, “Japanese Audiovisions” opened under the organisation of friend Arnau Horta, with the illustrious Nakamura and his AVVA project (the acronym of Audio Video/Video Audio), along with the Austrian video-artist Billy Roisz. Given my lack of knowledge about the latter’s work, I will point out that in AVVA, according to the promotional materials, Nakamura does what he does best: free improvisation using his mixing board as the only source of sound (what is known as “no-input mixing board”). This is precisely the technique that has made Nakamura one of the bulwarks of the onkyo scene –or onkyo-key, which in Japanese means something like “reverberated sound” or “resonating sound”– born at the end of the 90s as a purely Tokyo offshoot of electro-acoustic improvisation, essentially localised first at Bar Aoyama, and later in Off Site. Onkyo music, which some have wanted to see as the most extreme expression of minimalism, although that’s not really what it’s all about, places textural contemplation ahead of any other rhythmic or harmonic consideration, and it reacts with shocking normality to the intense use of silence. If you need more information, look at the production of Sachiko Matsubara (Sachiko M), solo or with Otomo Yoshihide in Filament, Taku Sugimoto or Tetuzi Akiyama, and you will discover a very, very different sound world. The best establishments in this branch also have Nakamura’s lengthy discography available, of which both his personal works and his innumerable joint ventures with Keith Rowe, John Butcher or Andrea Neumann are recommendable, to mention a few. The more cowardly should perhaps start with “Manafon”, David Sylvian’s last album, in which the who’s who of onkyo take part. Ah, and you should know that “Japanese Audiovisions” will be rounded off by Sawako (8th July) and Ryoichi Kurokawa (15th July). If you’re in Barcelona, we’ll see you there.
If you can’t get to the MACBA, we can meet here later. For example, from 1st to 3rd October in La Casa Encendida in Madrid. That’s when the 10th ExperimentaClub festival will be held, which I will be participating in the organisation of, and which I’m going to allow myself to talk about because this is my column. The issue is that in spite of the crisis and its side effects, the friends of ExperimentaClub will have some seriously great programming available to them. When I tell you the headliners, you’ll have no choice but to agree with me: Nadja and Carlos Giffoni on Friday 1st October; Seefeel on Saturday, the 2nd; and KTL (Peter Rehberg, a.k.a Pita, and Stephen O’Malley, from Sunn O)))) on Sunday 3rd October. And there’s more: E.A.R. (or Experimental Audio Research, the vintage-synth project of ex-Spacemen 3’s Pete Kember, who is already late in reclaiming the cosmic childish prank), Bernhard Günter, Ghédalia Tazartés, Livio Tragtenberg, Xesús Valle and Tarek Atoui, besides the usual debates, workshops and talks. If you don’t see me around, ask for me backstage. I’m sure to be there, drink in hand, arguing about the declarations -some irrefutable, others controversial, and all interesting- in “Experimentaclub / LimbØ 2007.08.09”, the retrospective volume where in essay form, we will look in-depth at the transoceanic adventure begun three years ago by the Madrid-Buenos Aires axis under the sponsorship of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation in Development (AECID) and based on artistic exchange between Spain, Portugal, and South America in terms of its history, concept, and (of course) sound, thanks to the compilation CD that accompanies the book, with works by artists from Peru, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica and Brazil. This volume is one of incalculable value: not only for the quality of its contents, but also for the visibility that it grants to a group of South American scenes whose activity, although frenetic and high-quality, is unfairly unknown on this side of the Atlantic for reasons that are no longer inexplicable, as they are all described, studied in detail, and analysed clearly in “Experimentaclub / LimbØ 2007.08.09”.
There are three kinds of music: the good, the bad, and Smegma. And in case anyone doubted this, we have the greatest sound challenge of the season: “I Am Not Artist”, the enormous box-set put out by Vinyl On Demand –somebody should build a monument to the German company, who’ve been busy since 2004 recovering material that is not just hard to find, but rather that it borders on the futile to search for– which includes 6 LPs and a DVD that recover the until-now practically impossible-to-find first editions of the most Martian group in the world, which originally came out between 1973 and 1988. For people who don’t know them –shall we say, for the majority of the human race– we’ll say that Smegma is a group that’s not easy to define — Musicians? Improvisers? Jokers? Cultural terrorists? They’ve been active since the beginning of the 70s, created initially within the Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS), although they later set up home in Portland, where today they are considered the VIPs of the local experimental scene, although I’m sure they have a silly laugh every time they hear someone refer to them that way and which is shown in their surreal appearance in the fascinating documentary “People Who Do Noise” (Adam Cornelius, 2007). Over the course of their forty years of demented career, Smegma has been linked with psychedelics, free-jazz, punk (they played with the Dead Kennedys!), no wave, noise –they have collaborated with Merzbow and Wolf Eyes, among others– and whatever else catches their fancy. Anyway, whatever label is applied to them, they’ll never entirely fit in any category, however the clues might point (diffusely and perhaps a product of my overheated imagination) at times, and in fits and starts, to Cecil Taylor, Captain Beefheart, Dada, Albert Ayler, the Mothers of Invention, concrete music, or the hooliganism of Gavin Bryars’ Portsmouth Symphony.But I’ll tell you, you shouldn’t pay too much attention to me either. It’s better to throw yourself without a net into the six hours of nonsense delirium of “I Am Not Artist” : at times it will seem like you’re listening to a group of seriously mentally ill people trying to do pop music ( “I Used to Be a Rock’n’Roll Star” and “Auto Suk”) or, even worse, jazz ( “Bubs Medley”, “Dickensmeglee #35”, “When the Saints” and “Loops and Horns”); or a handful of no wavers after taking some really bad smack ( “Get Away”, “Beauty School” and “Mutant Baby”); like a quartet of deaf people doing collages on cassette tapes ( “Mr. Potatohead’s Flotation Ex.” and “Id-o-matic”); or, directly, like a bunch of sons of bitches screwing around making trouble ( “Ladies Night at the Ortho Lounge”, “Pigface Chant” , “Dancing Hairpiece” and “Frogsies and Fisheggs Zuking”). So now you know: diversion guaranteed.
mp5 Altar of Flies: “Permanent Cavity” (Ideal)
Mattias Gustafsson is Swedish and has been in the silly habit of putting out noise on cassette or CD-R every month and a half or so since 2006 ( “Permanent Cavity” is his fourth launch this year), is a nuisance capable of causing irreparable damage with a pair of analogue synthesisers and a handful of tape-loops. Harsh, grating, and with many more nuances than were to be expected, “Permanent Cavity” aspires to being the noise album of the year.
M. Holterbach & Julia Eckhardt: “Do-Undo (In G Maze)” (Helen Scarsdale Agency)
Julia Eckhardt is a viola player of classical training with a curious hobby: she always composes using only the note “G” and its harmonics. Her encounter with the luthier and French sound artist Emmanuel Holterbach in the Q-O2 Werkplaats Sound Laboratory in Brussels led to these pieces, unpublished until now, seasoned with recordings of the French countryside. The result is spectacular: high-class drone music that comes close to Phil Niblock, Tony Conrad or Charlemagne Palestine.
RM74: “Reflex” (Utech)
Among the thick computer music of Rëto Mader’s first album, “Mikrosport” (2000), and the gloomy psychedelics of “Reflex” there is as much aesthetic as geographical distance between the labels that put them out: Domizil (Zurich) and Utech (Milwaukee) - an ocean. It’s no coincidence that the Swiss man now shares a home with professionals of bad vibes like Aluk Tolodo or Skvllflower: as if he were a Xela who had definitively crossed over to the dark side, RM74 makes claustrophobic soundtracks that don’t need cinematic company to scare you. A lot.
Zs: “New Slaves” (The Social Registry)
The quarry of Brooklyn seems to be inexhaustible. Even after having been active for nearly ten years, few people know the Zs. Starting with this album, this ignorance should be punished by law. Overwhelming and unclassifiable, “New Slaves” is a monstrous generic short-circuit—rock articulation, jazz effectiveness, electronic handling, noise resolution– that leaves its listeners exhausted, injured... and asking for more. Become fans.
Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words: “No Words” (Land of Decay)
More drones, yes. This time it has a terse character, with hints of atmospheric pop, ambient, neo-classic, and epic rock. They won’t win an award for their originality, but if you have a sensitive soul, you will be able to appreciate the virtues and art of the Swede Thomas Ekelund, who’s also in Teeth, on this lovely C40 recovered by Land of Decay and published for the first time in 2009 on When Skies Are Grey, in an edition limited to 23 copies!