Review – physical, absent, tangible (Contour Editions) 2010 – by Jim at Aquarius Records in SF

V/A Physical, Absent, Tangible (Contour Editions) cd-r 11.98

Contour Editions is a new label curated by New York based sound artist Richard Garet, whose tense grey drones had marked his very impressive Four Malleable 2cd set on And/OAR as well as an exceptional collaboration with Brendan Murray released back in 2009. The same technical rigor that Garet employs in his own compositions extends to this compilation of various artists working around the globe, including i8u (Canada), Christopher DeLaurenti (Seattle), Gil Sanson (Venezuela), and Brian Mackern & Gabriel Galli (Uruguay). Aside from DeLaurenti, whose phonography collection of orchestral intermissions has long been a favorite of ours, this compilation is an introduction to all of the artists present. Not a bad thing at all, considering how strong each contribution is. Garet had charged these sound artists to consider the “evocation of the in-between immaterial spaces” – not quite the existential pursuit into nothingness, silence, or the void; but rather, the faintest of sounds brought close to the event horizon, the ghosts that tickle at the edge of perception, etc. Fortunately, none of the artists employ the clicks and cuts techniques which emerged from the Max/MSP crowd from the nascent days of the millennium. Sure, things are quiet and undoubtedly processed and/or produced by digital means.

i8u is the work of Canadian composer France Jobin, who’s actually been around quite a while, producing all sorts of electronica-laced computer-driven compositions. Her track eschews all of the mid-range frequencies, instead splitting her attention between a deep rumbling low-end of a slightest pierced tones at the high-end. Despite the extremes of tonality, there’s something rather lulling and enveloping about this piece almost achieving the same generative stasis that Thomas Koner produces. Christopher DeLaurenti presents two tracks of stone-faced slabs of grey noises looped and snapped into a darkened ambience. Gil Sanson’s eight vignettes are open ended by design, with the composer encouraging the listener to hit shuffle on the cd player. These buzzes, drones, and smeared field recordings connect through a muted aesthetic of dreamy discomfort. The Mackern & Galli piece bristles with electrical static cracked upon a shortwave radio with Morse code blips streaming into the foreground and peculiar gestures of feedback sneaking throughout. Bits of radio transmission break through these disembodied elements, giving the piece the detached aesthetic which was endemic to The Conet Project and The Ghost Orchid, despite the very-hands on approach to this piece. All together, the album seamlessly flows from one track to the other, almost making it difficult to discern where one composition begins and another ends.

Hopefully, one of many good things to come from Mr. Garet’s label. Oh yes, it’s limited to 150 copies, too!

MPEG Stream: I8U “Rarefaction”
MPEG Stream: GIL SANSON “La Montana Se Ha Ido 4”
MPEG Stream: BRIAN MACKERN & GABRIEL GALLI “Temporal De Santa Rosa”