Review – Extract, Portrait of Soundartists(nvo) 2007 – by Nicola Catlalano, blow up

EXTRACT (2CD + book by Non Visual Objects)

In solo due anni d’esistenza e poco più di una decina di produzioni la Nonvisualobjects di Heribert Friedl e Raphael Moser si candida ad un ruolo di primo piano nell’ambito internazionale della sound art. E l’uscita più recente a diventare uno di punti di riferimento imprescindibili per tutti gli appassionati del settore. Esempi di parziale catalogazione dell’universo della sound art con tendenze microsoniche sono già stati tentati in passato, si pensi alle compilation della serie “Lowercase”, ai due volumi della 12k “Between Two Points” e “Two Point Two” o in un ambito più specifico alla collana “Clicks & Cuts” o, ancor meglio, ai volumi con CD “Site Of Sound: Of Architecture And The Ear” della Errant Bodies Press e “Sound Art – Sound As Media” della NTT Publishing Co. Proprio a queste ultime due pubblicazioni può essere accostato “Extract – Portraits of Soundartists”, benché rispetto ad esse risponda ad un approccio meno teorico e sistematico. Si tratta per lo più di istantanee di singoli autori condotte col metodo semplice e pratico dell’intervista, oppure attraverso note autobiografiche, diari, disegni, fotografie, riflessioni estemporanee (in pratica l’aspetto teorico dell’operare di ciascuno viene fuori in maniera più sottile, meno diretta, andando a comporre un quadro d’insieme in maniera piuttosto obliqua). Ventidue gli artisti selezionati con criterio personalissimo ma tutto sommato aderente allo stato delle cose (ovvio che non si possa pretendere completezza enciclopedica), ognuno dei quali presente anche con una traccia altrimenti inedita. Poche le sorprese e pochi i nomi relativamente nuovi (Richard Garet, Andy Graydon, Ubeboet, I8UŠ), con una scaletta che si concentra sulle grandi firme. Poche purtroppo anche le sorprese sotto il profilo puramente estetico, sia formale sia di contenuti, dacché ormai il tipo di ricerca cui si assiste concede poco spazio all’inaspettato e alla soddisfazione uditiva, con l’eterna dicotomia tra chi riesce a cavare dalle proprie manie private qualche emozione che valga la pena comunicare anche a noialtri (Keith Berry, Richard Chartier, Taylor Deupree, Dean King, Dale Lloyd, Tomas Phillips, Steve Roden, Steinbrüchel, Nao Sugimoto, tanto per dire) e chi, con varie sfumature ed attenuanti, rimane chiuso nella sterile torre d’avorio della sperimentazione fine a se stessa (più o meno tutti gli altri). Palese manifestazione di cul de sac o, come si diceva all’inizio, manuale indispensabile (spesso, del resto, il quadro finale è superiore alla somma delle singole parti) è dubbio che lasciamo volentieri sbrogliare al lettore.
(nicola catlalano, blow up)

Review – Extract, Portrait of Soundartists(nvo) 2007 – by Tobias Fischer, tokafi

EXTRACT (2CD + book by Non Visual Objects)

Intensifies the brain’s hunger for information and input: A fascinating read and listen throughout.

In rock, everything is personal. In soundart, it seems, nothing is. That is why a project like “Extract” is much more than just a nicely layouted book with two CDs packed with music. It is a tangible result from the conclusion that our understanding of art can benefit from the knowledge of the composer’s personal history – and that the genre as a whole has the potential to be appreciated by a much larger audience if it allows itself to open up. That’s no buy-out, mind you, but the simple realisation that by its very nature, soundart will always have a certain disadvantage: While crunching guitars, dazzling drums, gripping vocals and the ebb and flow of verse and chorus are mainly self-referential and an effort to offer one’s own ego as a projection screen for others, the attempt to understand the world around us through its audible emissions is of a much more subtle nature. In fact, where the music is firmly placed first, the performer naturally steps back, turning all but invisible in the service of the composition. The functional and mostly faceless aesthetics of the genre have made it doubly hard for experimental works to compete with the bright lights of popular culture in the media. This is where “Extract” steps in.

A hole in the ground: Twenty-two biographies

Twentytwo artists have followed the invitation of Heribert Friedl and Raphael Moser, the masterminds behind the Nonvisual Objects label and contributed music, visuals as well as text to the book. Twentytwo entirely different biographies and twentytwo unique views on sound have resulted in twentytwo short but vivid introductions to their work and their life.The nature of these contributions is highly diverse. Friedl and Moser have set up a basic interview with questions on the background of the musicians, their influences, their methods and their stance on collaborating with similar-minded colleagues. While a large chunk of the “Extract” line-up is presented through their answers to this questionnaire, others have chosen idiosyncratic approaches. Keith Berry tells a story from his childhood and how the mysteriously beckoning drone of a “monster of a heating system” in his parent’s house would hold a deep and inexplicable fascination. 12k founder Taylor Deupree fills his four pages with small snapshots of a Japan-tour which, as he points out, “may mean a great deal to some, sparking memories and stories, or may mean nothing to others”. Dutch Roel Meelkop is represented by a short piece of prose entitled “Another piece of general fiction or how I came to be a sound artist” (a hole in his garden apparently played an important role), while seminal American visual artist and composer Steve Roden has scanned entries from his “work diary”, which go from scetched drawings of bagpipes to thoughts on the importance of calligraphy in Zen. Parts are intellectual and require repeated perusal – such as Richard Chartier’s detailed and precise description of his technique and intentions. Others come in the form of personal reflections, such as I8U’s France Jobin looking back on her early days as a sound explorer: “Being a difficult child, it didn’t take long for my parents to realize they could keep me quiet and out of trouble by placing me in between two speakers.” It’s a fascinating read throughout.

Minimalism is the main criterium: Two and a half hours of music

The music is equally eclectic. Miguel A. Tolosa, who runs the Con-V netlabel and operates under the name of Ubeboet, has called this the release of the year and the two and a half hours of material certainly allow for this kind of superlative. From his own sacral choir ambiances to Friedl’s minute incisions and crackles, from Bernhard Günter’s urban field recordings to Steinbrüchel’s perfect drone pulses, this collection offers a plenitude of moods, ideas, approaches and philosophies. Friedl and Moser talk about a network which has formed thanks to interactions between artists all over the world, whose categories for inclusion are very much open: Minimalism is the main criterium, other than that the spectrum and the scope of “Extract” are wide and all-embracing. Nao Sugimoto drove to the outskirts of Tokyo, placed a speaker next to his car, put on a playback of a prerecorded acoustic guitar piece and taped it from a sizeable distance. Jos Smolders meanwhile, withdrew into the solitude and comfort of a grandfather clock ticking in an infinitely condensed space. Some of the harmonic and “musical” tracks reveal their analytical origins, while many of the purely sound-focused pieces take on a hauntingly emotional meaning: The music seems to speak to the listener in a very direct way. “Perhaps the appeal of minimal art”, Tomas Phillips writes, “is that it provides a very particular bridge between self and other, one that meets the artist’s needs to contribute to a community, whilst allowing the listener/reader/viewer space in which to offer his or her own experience to a “collaborative” project”.

That’s not only an excellent observation in relation to the arts in general, but to “Extract” in particular as well. While the common train of thought has been that the cold design of the scene has served to spark the imagination of the listener, forcing him to make his own picture of the composer, this book proves this theory wrong. The more one finds out about the personalities behind the music, the more one is able to appreciate the nuances of their oeuvre, the differences between similar results and the analogies between starkly contrasting contributions. The wealth of information “Extract” offers does not set the brain to rest, but only goes to intensify and increase its hunger for information and more input. Many of the artists talk about how they felt like outlaws during their school time for preferring “the sound of tires rolling over snow” above crunching guitars, dazzling drums, gripping vocals and the ebb and flow of verse and chorus – I am thoroughly convinced that if this book became part of the curriculum, many more would feel the same. Not everything in soundart is personal. But much more than anyone previously thought possible certainly is.
(tobias fischer, tokafi)

Review – Extract, Portrait of Soundartists(nvo) 2007 – by Mike Oliver, smallfish

EXTRACT (2CD + book by Non Visual Objects)

Non Visual Objects is one of those labels that comes with something of a guarantee of quality with every release. With works from Steve Roden, Richard Chartier, Roel Meelkop, Tomas Phillips and Dean King and label co-owner Heribert Friedl, you can expect a certain level of presentation and sound that always pleases. This book is the logical extension, then, for a label that’s incredibly aesthetic and Extract really does make for a comelling read an, indeed, listen. A series of interviews and articles on the artists involved in the CDs that accompany the book, it looks in depth at techniques, motivations and the history of these artists. It’s all in black and white which rather suits the minimalist ethos of the label and is designed with great care and attention as well as being hard bound. Musically, the range on offer here is wonderful and artists such as Taylor Deupree, Richard Chartier, Bernhard Gunter, Nao Sugimoto (aka Mondii), Keith Berry, Dale Llyod, Will Montgomery, Steinbruchel, Jos Smolders, Steve Roden, John Hudak and more all contribute excellent works of sonic art. I could waffle on about this for hours if I had the space, but for now all I’ll say is that if you have any interest in this contemporary minimalist style of music you’ll find this to be a really exciting release indeed. Highly recommended.
(mike oliver, smallfish)

Review – Extract, Portrait of Soundartists(nvo) 2007 – by Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly

EXTRACT (2CD + book by Non Visual Objects)
Its possible to start with saying I don’t like to review compilations, and ‘Extract’ is a real difficult one. Two CDs, twenty-two tracks, by people that we may know from the world of microsound. That is twenty-two pieces of deep bass hum, crackles, processed field recordings and static hiss being filtered through Max or PD (depending who’s side you are on). It’s not easy to spot the highlight in this contest of ‘I am more silent than you’. That is a possible approach. But we should be better off approaching this from a more positive view. The owners of Non Visual Objects have already released a bunch of CDs and this book is a sort of introduction to the world which they are present in. The hardcover book has about 100 pages, and it’s four pages per artist. ‘Where are you from and what do you do’ is more or less the approach taken by the curators of the book. Not a book about theory, but a gentle introduction. Some people talk about their origins through the form of interviews, others write themselves about their work, which is not always about their music. It can be also about other forms of art they occupy themselves with, such as photography, installations or drawings. It adds a more human aspect to the music, seeing the photo’s of the artists and their personalized stories, which work best if they leave the format of an interview, and when they are really personal, like the ones of Steve Roden, John Hudak and Roel Meelkop. With a fresh look at the book (with excellent minimal design), we return to the CDs and listen with different ears. Here we now notice small differences in the various musics that are presented here. The sheer silence of Chartier, I8U, Dean King and Meelkop, but also the street sounds of Gunter, the radio looped minimalism of Hudak, the looped ambience of Taylor Deupree (who has a true trademark sound by now), drone like material from Dale Lloyd and Keith Berry, Jos Smolders’ musique concrete based on environmental sounds, or even a bit more noise based as with Will Montgomery. It’s the smaller variations perhaps to the untrained ear, but major ones to people who are used to microsound. Also included are Heribert Friedl, Richard Garet, Andy Graydon, Tomas Philips, Steinbruchel, Nao Sugimoto, Asmus Tietchens, Toshiya Tsunoda, Ubeboet and Micheal Vorfeld. One could wonder a bit over the selection here, which seems a bit arbitrary. Why no Francisco Lopez, Stephan Mathieu or Marc Behrens? But it’s perhaps too much of a personal selection, but at the same time it introduces us to some lesser known people such as Andy Graydon, Richard Garet and Micheal Vorfeld (who is better known in a different scene, I guess, that of improvised music). This is an incomplete overview but it may serve as an excellent introduction to the uninitiated as well as shedding some light on some of the people we know so well, but who don’t get so much coverage in the real press. As such the best book this year so far. (FdW)

Review – Extract, Portrait of Soundartists(nvo) 2007 – by Brian Marley, the wire

EXTRACT (2CD + book by Non Visual Objects)

As sound editing software has become ever more widely available, the number of artists working with sound has increased exponentially. Networks of artists who may live thousands of miles apart, and perhaps never meet except in the virtual realm, have become commonplace. One such network of electroacoustic artists is based in and around Nonvisualobjects, the Vienna-based label inaugurated by Raphael Moser and Heribert Friedl some two years ago, and Extract provides some of its participants with an opportunity to explain a number of things, including: what it is they do, why they do it, what musics and sounds have influenced them, what it is they value in art, what value their art (if indeed it is art) is to themselves and to society, and whether the sound pieces they make constitute music.
Because sound is often only one of the materials these artists work with, the editors have encouraged them to present other aspects of what they do. The chapters are, as they put it, collage-like and open to interpretation. There’s a tendency therefore to present information somewhat obliquely, as John Hudak does through a series of crudely hand-drawn self-portraits, which he considers analogous to the way he makes music. Roel Meelkop’s entry consists of a short piece of autobiographical fiction that wryly purports to explain how he became a sound artist. Bernhard Günter highlights a non-musical aspect of his work – his ‘photo walks’, illustrated by five of his highly abstract photographs – though he declares there’s no real distinction for him between audio and visual: “It . . . doesn’t make an essential difference whether I handle a sound sample in a digital recording system, an instrument in my hands, or a camera in front of my eye: my success or failure will always depend on my being able to enter the right state of mind”. Taylor Deupree emphasises one of the major themes that runs through the book, the importance of social networks, by presenting a visual diary consisting of 69 small photographs, taken during the four trips he made to Japan between 2003-05, almost all of which are snapshots of friends and colleagues in informal situations, only a fat handful of which are of performances or were taken at concert venues. It should perhaps be mentioned at this juncture that all of the visual illustrations in the book are monochrome, and of lower resolution than one might have wished for, but otherwise production values are high.
Needless to say, the reasons these sound artists give for making the work they do are as varied as the work itself. Sometimes it comes down to feeling uncomfortable playing traditional instruments, especially as children; or other influences creep in that won’t reconcile themselves with the music they hear around them. Keith Berry, for example, writes of the hot water tank in his childhood bedroom that fed the house’s central heating system, the noises of which fascinated him, and he helpfully includes a photograph of the water tank in question so we can see what he heard. Of present day influences, less is said; or perhaps it’s truer to say that what’s said is less revealing. Jos Smolders points up a particular dilemma in this regard: “Since the existence of the internet, the scope of what we can choose from is so wide that nothing can be outstanding. And if something does, for a moment, then immediately there are at least 100 others copying it, thereby obliterating the original”. He concludes, feelingly, “So, maybe it sounds a bit presumptuous, but I really haven’t a clue about my present day influences”.
Smolders may feel dispirited about the lack of outstanding work he gets to hear, but the two CDs of sound material that accompany the book don’t bear this out. Each of the 22 contributors has supplied a piece of sound/music, including (of those yet to be mentioned) Steve Roden, Ubeboet, Richard Garet, I8U, Asmus Tietchens, Richard Chartier, Will Montgomery, Steinbrüchel, Dean King, Heribert Friedl, Andy Graydon, Michael Vorfeld, Nao Sugimoto, Tomas Phillips, Dale Lloyd and Toshiya Tsunoda. Some of the pieces are, as the book’s title suggests, extracts from longer works (and, if not, one could argue they’re extracts from a lifetime’s work), none of which tops the nine minute mark. The most striking pieces, to my mind, are those by Graydon, Tsunoda, Berry, Smolders, Montgomery, Vorfeld and Tietchens. It’s perhaps inevitable that once all the texts have been read, the best reason for returning to this volume will be to listen to the CDs, but the book is nonetheless a valuable and extremely welcome resource.
(brian marley, the wire # 284)