I currently have around 8000 LPs in my library. This not an idle boast but a way to begin this article with a sense of context. I am an inveterate collector of music, I constantly seek out more LPs to obtain, listen to and derive pleasure from. I have a television that hasn’t worked for almost two years now and so music and reading are my primary methods of entertainment. I often have music playing whilst I read and frequently have it playing throughout the entire day so the number of thoroughly unexplored albums quoted at the start of this piece diminish my collection rather substantially. I do love music.
But when the music gets to be a bit too, well… musical, what then? I am also a huge fan of music which others might lazily call ‘a load of noise’ but let’s just call it all music anyway for the sake of completeness. I was going to write an article about my favourite pure ‘noise’ LPs of all time but the list grew out of all proportion – it seems I like ‘noise’ an awful lot too. So, in the pursuit of brevity, I thought I’d pick out a few LPs which I play often but which can’t really be termed music in the conventional or accepted sense of the word.
Let’s not forget here that noise is music and music is just noise, those two terms are wholly and completely interchangeable. The following albums shouldn’t be ignored or passed over because of their lack of verse/chorus/verse structuring, try them and see what happens. you may well pleasantly surprise yourself.
Emptyset – Material (Subtext, 2013)
I’m a huge fan of Emptyset, a duo comprising of Paul Purgas and James Ginzburg. Their earliest work around 2008/2009 is best described as abrasive, glitchy techno although their sound has developed into something completely different in the intervening few years. This short three track EP sees the duo setting up their mighty sound generators inside London’s Ambika P3 concrete bunker, Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in Wales, and Chislehurst mine in Kent. The purpose of using these remote, abandoned locations is to unleash vast slabs of speaker wrecking bass subs, sinus clearing static and higher frequency tones than are humanly possible to hear within them and record the results. The whole thing runs at just over 17 minutes but is jaw droppingly intense and impossibly eerie, conjuring up belching echoes, tonal interferences and a whole gamut of sound transference from surfaces within spaces unvisited by humans for many years. In a single word – staggering.
Ryoji Ikeda – Supercodex (Raster-Noton, 2013)
This is the third and final album in a trilogy for German label Raster-Noton by Japanese musician and supreme frequency manipulator Ryoji Ikeda. I came across his two previous efforts Dataplex and Test Pattern earlier this year and had them both on heavy rotation, each one sounding like CDs which had been impossibly abused with all manner of abrasive substances. This final instalment of the trilogy explores the relationship between data and sound and the “invisible multi–substance of data that permeates our world”. Supercodex uses as its raw material sounds taken directly from Ikeda’s previous Dataplex and Test Pattern albums in addition to sources drawn from his other projects and installations. This is raw, uncompromising data presented as music which at times can almost give the impression of a fleeting rhythmic dynamic beginning to develop between the constantly collapsing sonic constructs but mainly fills your listening space with pure, unadulterated 1s and 0s.
Bernard Parmegiani – L’œuvre musicale (INA-GRM, 2008)
Last November, Bernard Parmegiani passed away aged 86. I had just managed to get my hands on this twelve CD retrospective of his career and decided to listen to it that day in its entirety as a tribute of sorts to the great man. I was enthralled for the whole of the thirteen hour running time experiencing sounds I had never heard before whilst tapping into a host of emotions hitherto undreamt of. It truly was a perception-changing experience on a number of levels which I’m still coming to terms with. Parmegiani began his career in the French equivalent of the BBC sound department at times working with mentor Pierre Schaeffer using prototype tape machine loops and early microphones – truly the stuff of science fiction back then. He continued working and releasing LPs right up to his sad death. Nothing amongst these discs sounds antique or outdated in the slightest. It’s easy to hear a multitude of the precursors to modern electronic and experimental musical tropes within the tangled web of sounds presented across the dozen discs. If there was ever a release that I would unreservedly rate as essential listening then this is most definitely it. A pure work of sound as art.
This article is dedicated to the life and work of Bernard Parmegiani
(27th October 1927 − 21st November 2013)