sound, image & their ghosts

greg hoooper: liquid architecture 10, brisbane

Perlonex, LA 10, Brisbane

Perlonex, LA 10, Brisbane

NIGHT ONE. LONG NARROW ROOM, CUSHIONS ON THE FLOOR, A WELL DESERVED ROUND OF APPLAUSE AS LAWRENCE ENGLISH REMINDS EVERYONE THAT THIS IS THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF LIQUID ARCHITECTURE. A WOMAN AT THE FRONT DESK ASKS MY SON IF HE WANTS EARPLUGS. HE LEANS OVER TO ME AND ASKS, “WHAT SORT OF CONCERT NEEDS EARPLUGS?” ONE THAT IS, AT TIMES, FAR TOO LOUD. MAYBE AT TIMES LOUD ENOUGH TO CONSTITUTE ASSAULT AND LOUD ENOUGH TO CONTRAVENE APPROPRIATE CODES OF CONDUCT AS LAID DOWN BY SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE. I DON’T KNOW. WHEN IT GOT LOUD I CLOSED MY EARS, ALL THE BETTER TO HEAR ANOTHER DAY.

Perlonex (Ignaz Schick, turntables and electronics; Jörg Maria Zeger, electric guitars; Burkhard Beins, percussion) have been around for about a decade. Before things begin they ask for the air-conditioning to be turned off and then start soft, well below the noise floor the aircon had set up. Beins uses a small kit—drum, cymbal. He rubs something, maybe a rattle, around the drum head—friction drumming—and sets up a soft, sibilant drone. The rhythm is understated, a cyclical wave of changing amplitude. Cymbals hiss. Schick adds hints of electronics and underneath and barely perceptible Zeger plays a gently pulsed tonal wash on guitar. Homogenous ensemble playing, a single rich texture. Slow build up (unavoidable cliché of ambient music?), then ear-split into some ugly sounds, then slow relax. What’s the zeitgeist around this (pleasant ramps up to awful ramps down to release)? Is it disappointment? I thought life’d be good but it turned out nasty? Dunno, but there’s a lot of it about.

Asmus Tietchens and Thomas Köner each had solo sets on the second night. But on the first night they played together as Kontakt der Jünglinge. A no fanfare start. Crowd milling in the foyer hubbub and a drain gurgle looping a metrical pulse. Old school musique concrète, very tape, layers of field recordings and heavily processed/synthetic sounds. (Is there much of a difference between processed real and fully synthetic sounds now that sophisticated signal processing is a free download away?) The Stockhausen tradition comes through in the sequencing of quite abstract sound into coherent musical gestures. Volume is perfectly placed to let ambient and close miked recordings of different acoustics create spatial depth. Sub bass reminds us of the resonant properties of our body cavities. The bump and looping gurgle of the beginning comes back, decays into the noise floor of the air-conditioning. Exit.

Night the second. I arrive a little early to check out the two installations. Eugene Carchesio has a small piece, a few blinking lights in what looks like a jewellery display case. Unfortunately the piece gets lost in the space. Scott Arford has a sound+projection piece. Wide screen movies of bleached out and light-flared industrial scenes plus manipulated field recordings taken at the same industrial sites. The manipulation is minimal—underlying bassy drone, large metal doors being slammed, truck reversing beeps, chutes and engines. Each short piece is introduced by a black screen with a number—like a catalogue capturing industrial phenomena before it disappears.

Asmus Tietchens, LA 10, Brisbane

Asmus Tietchens, LA 10, Brisbane

Asmus Tietchens begins with filaments and layers of filtered noise. Occasional glitches burst then decay into hiss. Then the hiss slows to a crackle, drones give way and the crackle becomes marbles dropped into a jar. Each glassy plink dilates to become pitched and tonal. The smooth transformation of sounds, blended, layered and free-form looped; the varying scales of activity—from microsound to gesture to section—modulates our attentional focus into specifics and then away into layers of abstraction. Work that comes from a lifetime of listening and compositional refinement.

Thomas Köner presents video+sound in his solo set. A train slowly circles on an elevated track in a nondescript city—empty station to empty station. Unseen crowds murmur over a low and mournful tonal progression. The video floats, is blurred, solarised, fades in and out. Muted and grey, alien, slashes of garish colour; is the city real? Modelled? Second section and the sounds of mild explosions. People move slo-mo across the screen, outlined and hollow like cells under the microscope, sometimes they are opaque enough to hint at faces, the patterns of clothing. One person stands still for a while, slightly hunched, facing the camera, facing us. Implied accusation: Why are you there when we are here?

The setting looks architectural, but abstract, maybe a garden centre with stacked pots, maybe something completely different. It is hard to tell; there is obviously a meaning to the environment but that meaning is completely opaque—you just know there is a meaning there that you will never understand. It is as if one is profoundly outside, witnessing the residual echo of an unfathomable civilisation. More and more people appear, still ghostly, but now layering over each other. And instead of walking across the scene they start coming towards the camera, leaving traces of their paths, a history, glimpses of faces, parts and details, moving and layering until the screen looks like bitumen after the rain. Thunder cracks. Fade out and fade in to landscapes framed like a first-person homunculus staring out from the back of the skull. Fade again and back into the endless empty journey of the beginning. The train grinds to a halt, fades out, fades in to an urban wasteland. A child’s voice, an aimless dog. Clumps of stringy weeds and an abandoned access road, gravel pressed into the dirt. Traces of people walk past. The image fades one last time. A train sounds. A chord. Sub bass vibrates the room and is gone.

Liquid Architecture 10, curator Lawrence English, artists Joel Stern, Asmus Tietchens, Thomas Köner, Kontakt der Jünglinge, Jason Kahn, Perlonex, David Shea and Kristi Monfries, Plump (Dave Brown, Philip Samartzis, Marc Rogerson), Eugene Carchesio, Scott Arford; Brisbane Powerhouse, July 3-4

RealTime issue #92 Aug-Sept 2009 pg. 48

© Greg Hooper; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2009
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