Label: Home Normal
Date: October 2011
Cat & Format: HOMEN029 | CD & DD
David Newman’s work as an artist and label owner has always quietly amazed me and been a source of great inspiration, but his most recent record marks David out as one of the most talented, unique and wild (yes, wild) artists around. Autistici’s ‘Amplified Presence’ is one of the most expansive and deeply imaginative works we’ve heard in a long time. Throughout the ten pieces, David highlights an incredibly intense awareness and placement of a variety of sounds, which is perhaps one of his great trademarks or signatures. Where the album really caught me personally was in its sheer playfulness and the wonderful, almost child-like, melodies that spring forth throughout the entire record. It is a very rare talent indeed to at once be so intense, detailed and intelligent, whilst having something so dripping in melody that it takes a good few listens to really take on board just how rich in detail and development this record is. As a personal hero of mine, its incredibly exciting and humbling that David has given us the chance to release this incredible next step on the Autistici journey.
Image: Paul Bilger
Mastering: Ian Hawgood
Following releases on 12K, Keshhhhhh Recordings and his own Audiobulb imprint, David Newman has settled down at Home Normal for his third album proper. Right from Volume Objects, released over three years ago, Newman has worked at creating incredibly detailed miniature soundscapes from field recordings and electronics, and, while the Detached Metal Voice and Slow Temperature collections of early material released last year showcased quite a different side of his work, this is once again the feature of Amplified Presence.
Over the course of this album, Newman expands quite drastically on the concept he developed on both Volume Object and Complex Tone Test by refining it much further. He has a knack for creating extremely detailed and intricate soundscapes and making them sound so extremely effortless and effective, simply by wrapping them in beautifully crafted little melodies, and he does so with brio here. Whether it is with the gentle atmospheric tones of Automated Night Light, the bleep-heavy Attachment Type or the harder edge of Tower Location, melodies are at the heart of his compositions, and binds them together. But it is ultimately with sound that he is most at ease. While deeply electronic, there is something quite pastoral and organic about this whole album, in part thanks to the way he processes acoustic sounds and field recordings into his compositions and incorporating them into his sonic palette by maintaining most of their natural aspect, yet often using them in unusual ways.
Newman creates here a fascinating world built around dreamy soundscapes, some so utterly delicate and fragile that they threaten to shatter at the tiniest sparks of density (Automated Night Light, A Bed Of Powdered Glass, Field13), other sturdier (Sixteenth, Slow Rotor Sensory Loop) and more playful (A Religion Of Water And Air, Attachment Type, Tower Location). Each piece is like a self-contained universe, with its own set of climates, sonic spaces and tones, sometimes deployed into a succession of tiny vignettes which, although appearing to work independently from each other, are in fact intricately linked. This is perhaps most obvious on A Religion Of Water And Air or Tower Location, where their respective various sections are clearly distinct, but this is found elsewhere on the record albeit in much more subtle forms.
Amplified Presence has however a very strong sonic identity of its own, and one that is very consistent throughout. This has alway been one of Newman’s strength with his records, yet it feels as this is taken to an entirely new level here. If Newman calls upon a vast sound palette for this album, he is careful to retain an overall feel for the entire album. As a result, this is undoubtedly his most accomplished and impressive record to date, and definitely one not to miss.
Following on from last year’s double-bill of archive material, David Newman, aka Autistici, brings us a marvellous collection of new works with his third album proper, Amplified Presence. Taking in a range of styles, the album moves from softly drifting melodies to intensely textured work.
‘Automated Night Light’ provides a gentle opening, easing the listener in with a fragmented lullaby-like melody accompanied by intermittent pops and crackles that take us seamlessly into ‘A Bed of Powdered Glass’. The sense of space created through extreme panning, constantly in motion, is impressive and lends a real sense of space to the surrounding soundscape. This allows the
processed acoustic sounds to remain purely in the centre, their melodic fragments providing an anchor for the piece.
‘A Religion of Water and Air’ is an absolute corker. What sounds like a typewriter joins a short piano and plucked strings sample, building up until the beat proper kicks in. Plenty of disjointed mayhem ensues; it’s ambient but beauty, dark but jolly, and at one point a drunken R2D2 seems to creep in, joining in with the return of the previous piano sample.
From the frenetic, intensely driven soundscape created by the processed voice of ‘Vocal Chords’ to the fragile guitar and koto melodies of ‘Sixteenth’, Newman covers some serious ground, integrating purely electronic sounds with the organic qualities of acoustic instruments. ‘Tower Location’ incorporates processed bells, field recordings and a whole manner of bleeps and clicks into
an intensely beat-driven piece. ‘Slow Rotor Sensory Loop’ and ‘Field’ begin to wind the listener down with immersive swirling textures taking hold, whilst ‘Slow Fluorescence’ brings the album to a slightly jittery close; the intermittent guitar harmonics lending a calming contrast to the insistent flickering static.
Overall, a superb collection that is bound to appeal to fans of Autisici’s previous releases and should certainly gain him some new listeners. Another gem from the Home Normal catalogue – highly recommended.
Following releases on 12K, Keshhhhhh, and his own Audiobulb, David Newman settles down at Home Normal for his third album proper – that is, discounting last year’s clearouts from his Autistici archives. From his debut Newman has pursued a predilection for fusing acoustic and found sounds with a method that seeks to preserve their sonorous essence even through processing and oblique strategies of setting. Of environments, objects, and their sound-generating properties he sings, engineering couplings between found and fabricated, dissolving dichotomies of real/artificial and natural/man-made. Amplified Presence sees Autistici take on the keynote of Volume Objects and follow-up revisit, Complex Tone Test, using a deceptively simple approach to craft ten music-soundscape vignettes, coaxing emergent melodies from his dual domains of sonority, some set free from particulate wrappers, others given space to wander within rich fields.
For the record, this audio treatise’s research tools include a veritable armoury of sounding objects, among which piano, cracklebox, mellotron, cutlery, violin, field recordings, voice. Sonic environments vary, metaphorically, from streams dotted with lightweight driftwood to more densely foliated forestry. Take pretty prelude, “Automated Night Light,” setting the tone, or one of them, with a fragment of lullaby-cum-jingle backed by radio crackle; “Bed of Powdered Glass” brings a completely different noise—a ribbon of slightly grubbily phased and filtered flutter-flitter stretched over arcing and diving string-bass, panned to enhance spatiality, creating a kind of circulatory effect. Note in passing how the electro-acoustic fragments provide architctural as well as melodic anchorage. Amplified Presence’s diversity comes not just from inter-track contrasts, but intra-track phases: “A Religion of Water and Air” has a typewriter spar with a piano-plonk offcut and a plucked string sample, letting them skirmish before throwing in a beat; after which percussive clatter and water dribble, outbreaks of disjunctive wack and wibble conspire in a playfully wonked design that brings Matmos to mind.
A harder focus is evident on some pieces, like the similarly Matmospheric “Tower Location,” which conjoins treated bells and field footsteps to a flurry of bleepery and circuitry skronk then morphs them into a thumping technoid workout. “Attachment Type” is another—an oddly unsettled collage in which more bleeps, squidges, and rustles interact to a background of smokebelch and babble.
Elsewhere, particularly in the latter stages, a softer sort of electro-pastoral prevails: “Vocal Chords” abstracted into a pensive floating keyboard interlude, lyrical koto (harp? inside piano?) plucks cascade across “Sixteenth.” Among these, the pleasures of the Eno-like “Slow Rotor Sensory Loop” and the Chartier microsound-like particle mists of the extended “Field” are the most felt. Unlike the frosty removed demeanour of some, these tracks have a peculiar affective heft; perhaps your mood mileage may vary as Newman’s audio narratives of sound-space interplay implicate interior space, each listener thus being acted on and reacting intersubjectively.
Amplified Presence is, then, a journey into sound where space is the place. Newman’s concern with inner-outer world-play focuses on representing details from the natural and man-made world, but moving them into his own world, one in which any detail is ripe for sonic capture and musical release. And in a varied, and variable, set, here frosty there toasty, here sloppy there graceful, Autistici not only displays an acute sensibility for sound and its emplacement, but also affirms a strong individual voice that of an academic acoustician possessed by some ludic child-like spirit.
Deft, detailed electronica from David Newman's Autistici project, probably one of Home Normal's finest releases this year. 'Amplified Presence' is a fine study on space and placement, using a menagries of sound objects - piano, cracklebox, mellotron, cutlery, violin, field recordings, vocals and much more - to create cutely kinetic spaces filled with naif melodies and scuttling, strangely organic rhythms which use every inch and angle of his sound sphere in imaginative ways.
As he's done before (on 2008's 12k release Volume Objects, for example), David Newman (aka Autistici as well as Audiobulb's overseer) draws upon the sound-generating properties associated with real-world phenomena to create the ten pieces on his Amplified Presence collection. What results are appealing settings such as the pretty, lullaby-like overture “Automated Night Light” that, no matter how they came into being, charm on musical grounds first and foremost. A recurring strategy deployed by Newman—and one that works well and helps distinguish the album's material—is for the found materials to be paired with a conventional instrument, with the former providing a rich field of sounds within which the melodic qualities of the latter are given room to manoeuvre. “A Religion of Water and Air,” for example, finds piano notes dancing within a dense array of sampled elements, while the micro-metallic flutterings coursing through “A Bed of Powdered Glass” are humanized by the bent notes of acoustic bass playing.
One surprise or another awaits at every turn, and an original creative sensibility asserts itself repeatedly. “Attachment Type” proves ear-catching in fashioning a futuristic, electro-blues meditation wherein bleeps, squelches, and percussive creaks interweave amidst gaseous emissions and voice ululations. Amplified Presence parks itself squarely within the kind of territory one associates with the Line label when “Field” presents eleven minutes of insectoid micro-sound at its most fine-grained and hyperactive. The mix of wayward percussive clatter, clicks-and-clacks, and water dribbling Newman fashions for “A Religion of Water and Air” occasionally calls to mind Matmos, especially during the track's more rhythmically charged episodes. The Matmos connection also declares itself when “Tower Location” morphs from an experimental setting dotted with clomping footsteps and electrical noises to a thumping techno cut that wouldn't sound out of place in the club. To his credit, Newman isn't precious about his sources either. One naturally presumes that the wavering choir of organ-like drones intoning throughout “Vocal Chords,” for instance, is voice-generated, and it doesn't require a whole lot of imagination to figure out the source material for “Slow Rotor Sensory Loop” and “Slow Fluorescence” either. What matters isn't so much the originating material, of course, but what production steps were taken for Newman to shape the track into its completed form and, most importantly, the final result taken on its own terms.
Besides running Audiobulb Records, David Newman occupies the rest of his time with a music project called Autistici, and has so far released an album on 12K and on his own label, plus some CDRs of archive material. It would be all to easily to lump him with the 'lot' who use computer as the primary instrument, since the cover here lists so much more: piano, violin, acoustic guitar, cracklebox, vocal chord, harpsichord, mellotron, organ, harp, bass guitar, cutlery, homemade electronics bought, made and bent, field recordings of the world inside and out'. Ah, you would say, but do we have any real evidence that he uses all of that, or is it 'all beyond recognition' as usual? I am happy to report that in these ten pieces we actually recognize a piano, a bass guitar, a voice and such like. What Newman does is not to create ten similar pieces of music, of stretching the given material into ambient glitch, but to set himself out to compose small pieces with all of these instruments. Rounded off, finished compositions. These ten are also highly varied in approach, even using rhythm from time to time, a heavy one in "Tower Location", but that's a rarity. Autistici work a lot with small melodies, warm and delightful, almost in a poplike context at times, and at other times in a beautiful ambient or abstract manner. I should think that this is easily the best work by Autistici I heard so far. A matured sound, all thought out, and carefully executed. That is the way to do it!
Subtle soundscapes and minimal meanderings (that’s adequate alliteration) from UK-based artist Autistici. Autistici creates audio narratives aimed at exploring the interchange between sound and space. Space in this context also includes the subjective space held within the listener. In this realm reflection and fantasy recontextualise the sound according to the listener’s inner psyche… which sounds very highbrow. Autistici’s latest work incorporates a wide range of sources, including textural sound design, orchestration, silence and fragments of found sound or field recordings. The tracks on this album seem to focus on representing details from both the natural and man made world. On this LP it seems like any sonic detail has the potential to become incorporated into the compositions. I guess this fascination with the interplay between the inner and outer world embodies Autistici’s sound, which is by all accounts a varied, sometimes frosty sounding collection of sonic compositions…top stuff.
David Newman est un artiste prolifique, qui a sévi sur des labels aussi pointus et réputés que 12k et Audiobulb Records. Observateur et acteur de la scène expérimentale de Sheffield, il fut remarqué par un certain Taylor Dupree. Pas avare le David, son projet Autistici a été également relayé sur des netlabels intéressants, comme Hippocamp, Kikapu ou Ear Errant. Sa dernière réalisation porte un nom définitivement évocateur, et est publiée sur le label Home Normal.
Autistici a quelque chose d'obsessionnel dans sa manière d'envisager les sons. Il est bien plus qu'un observateur de son environnement direct. Il l'analyse en permanence pour développer ses talents de sound designer. Il serait injuste de qualifier purement sa musique d'expérimentale. Sa palette strictement mélodique est tout d'abord bien trop riche pour ça. Il a aussi une capacité à aller à l'essentiel qui rend sa musique terriblement accessible.
Amplified Presence est un peu semblable à une fontaine de jouvence. Comme si on avait filé un séquenceur à un enfant, et qu'il avait su immédiatement s'en servir. Qui n'a jamais joué à l'apprenti chimiste à l'aide d'une mallette discount en ajoutant tout ce qui lui tombait sous la main dans des tubes à essais ? Le tapis d'éveil aussi. Si je mets ma main là, ça fait ce bruit là (Bed Of Powdered Glass ou Attachment Type), et si je tire sur ce machin qui pend, ça allume une lumière vive (Vocal Chords). Il y a effectivement quelque chose ici de très ludique, et de très enfantin (plus articulièrement sur Slow Rotor Sensory Loop). David Newman n'est pourtant plus un enfant, et encore moins un apprenti.
Il n'y a qu'à se pencher sur les thèmes obliques de Religion Of Water And Air pour s'en apercevoir et constater que les collages et les cuts ne sont pas simplement l'oeuvre d'un quelconque beatmaker. L'immobilisme ? Le lascar ne connaît pas. Point ici de vulgaire répétition pour chercher une issue peu élaborée. Il sait faire muter la masse brute sonore et la parer d'enluminures synthétiques. Les cordes de Sixteenth semblent avoir été enregistrées dans le lit d'un cours d'eau. Le clapotis a quelque chose de reposant et confère une certaine béatitude. Ne parlons même pas de Towar Location et de son tempo plus binaire, agrémenté d'improvisation rythmique très jazz.
Qui a dit que les sphères digitales dénaturaient le produit ? Même si l'impression de nature luxuriante est certaine à l'écoute du bien nommé Field, on regrettera peut-être l'absence d'ajouts de sources un peu moins classiques. Mais peu importe, l'émerveillement demeurera intact.
Amplified Presence est un album curieux et troublant de par sa variété. Même si il faudra un nombre d'écoutes important pour complètement adhérer à l'ensemble, il s'installera dans la durée aux abords de la platine pour à chaque fois, lui trouver des idées et des trésors supplémentaires. Une très bonne surprise, fourmillante d'ingéniosité.