Date: January 2014
Cat & Format: AB050 | DD
* Henry Duclos & Autistici | ** Featuring Prof. Andrea Polli | *** Calika & Autistici
Autistici is a UK electronic music composer who is based in Sheffield (UK). Autistici’s work incorporates a wide range of sources including textural sound design, orchestration, space and fragments of found sound or field recordings. Tracks focus on representing details from both the natural and man-made world. Each detail has the potential to be preserved or lost, clarified or confused. This means that any audio element, including elements from his own body become incorporated into the composition.
This fascination on the interplay between inner and outer world embodies Autistici’s sound. There is an intimate, intense and emenshed sense of connection with tiny details (e.g., dust on vinyl, a door opening, heart beats, breathing, snoring). Autistici has released tracks on 12k, Hibernate, Home Normal, Kesh, Audiobulb, Hippocamp, Kikapu and Wandering Ear.
Attaching Softness is a collection of detailed microsound pieces including collaborative works with Calika and Henry Duclos. It includes the original full-length version of Attaching Softness to a Shell. This track amplifies and recontextualises the musicality of natural sounds, setting them in an environment musical and rhythmic flows. At times the track is pure recordings (incorporating the work of Professor Andrea Polli - who extrapolated data regarding hurricanes and used this to generate sound).
Image: Paul Bilger
‘When musicians play music, they play with sound. Play is the key activity. Like a child with paint or clay—you start with nothing and you become focused on a colour, a form and tool of sculpture. It starts with a sound, its form and function laid bare. I let it play repeatedly and respond to the emotions it conjures within me. You wonder what it can do, where it can be taken.’ (David Newman, 15 Questions to Autistici)
19th century French poet Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror contained a memorable simile ‘…beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella.’ Adopted by the early Surrealists, it captured the spirit of the movement—the felicitous juxtaposition of the seemingly incongruent it embodied. Thoughts turned to this in contemplating everyday entities like batteries and radiators in musical couplings in Autistici’s Attaching Softness, a set of playful audio-documentary musical narratives from Sheffield-recording (geddit?) composer David Newman. Surfing boundaries between sound and music, natural and designed, the Audiobulb curator’s vignettes make exploratory play between sound and space, one of which being the head-space where semiotic resources are activated.
Newman tinkers with natural and industrial sources, rendering everyday objects sites of inquiry in encounters with synthetics and treated instruments. The Tinkerman’s sleight of handling of materials is no random assembly or chance juxtaposition—in which respect it departs from the surrealist credo of unfiltered expression given to a notional ‘unconscious.’ On the contrary, for Autistici: ‘…interest in the material stimulates my ‘critical ear’ to inform, shape and supervise the audio output. There is a stream of consciousness; there is a sense of dissociation from the outside world, a complete immersion in the sound. […] a sense that something is being resolved within me as I manipulate the sounds to form a cohesive narrative.’ (David Newman, 15 Questions to Autistici). Sound sources may be explicit, as in “Battery Setup in a Forest Clearing,” as if provocateur-ially demystifying—the skeleton seen through the skin, quiet field recordings slowly evolving in a quiet bright synth-coloured drone. Or they may be more hermetic, like “Blanket and Radiator” (with Henri Duclos), which hosts a quiet soundworld teeming with small noise and glitch insurgents—a world where the sonic is maxed out. Centrepiece “Attaching Softness to a Shell” realizes the musicality of natural sounds–hurricane-related data sourced by Prof. Andrea Polli—in a setting of pitch and rhythm. An errant interlude follows in “Blue Stem Sister,” a fragment bearing Calika‘s broken beat stamp, and “Projections from a Prayer” likewise eschews center for unmoored drift. Design has the last word, though, on “Meditation on Distance,” sounding objects colluding to throw up rhythms alluding to a mutant mnml-ist mien. It unfolds in creeping slow-mo episodes, here taking in ambient, drone and lowercase, there field recordings dominating, elsewhere with more space for modal synthetic figures.
Attaching Softness is presided over by a light touch intelligent design, felt in the way a given setting of real-world elements has been layered and sequenced, or accompanied. Or not. There’s a keen sense of sound’s potential to be found, and, being found, made music, each detail potentiated—for preservation or loss, resolution or blur, not so much ‘any sound you like’ as ‘any audio element composable.’ In closing, this, from a spiritual forebear, seems apposite: ‘If you develop an ear for sounds that are musical it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are not musical and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience.’ (John Cage)
One of the major things that distinguishes Attaching Softness is the sensitivity David Newman (aka Autistici) demonstrates in his handling of the physical materials used to assemble the six tracks. The Sheffield-based composer and Audiobulb overseer exemplifies an especially keen awareness of the musical potential offered by found sounds, and at no time do the pieces feel as if they've been randomly assembled or arbitrarily designed.
A clear sense of purpose and direction is evident in the material, in other words, no matter the physical origins of its component parts, and one always senses the presence of a keen governing intelligence in the way a given setting has been layered and sequenced.
On the fifty-minute recording, Newman also draws upon field recordings and exploits the sound possibilities of natural and industrial sources, even ones originating from the human body. Everyday entities such as batteries and radiators become sites of exploration on an album that also features collaborations with Calika and Henry Duclos. Neither is Newman averse to enhancing the real-world elements, as indicated by the synthesizers (or at least what one presumes to be synthesizers) and water-logged piano that dominate the closing moments of the opening two selections.
He isn't precious when it comes to revealing sound sources either, as that opener “Battery Setup in a Forest Clearing” makes clear. But even if he had given the track a less prosaic title, the outdoor sounds of birds and the hum of an engine would have pointed the listener in the appropriate direction anyway. In such a case, the title almost seems like a provocation on Newman's part, as if he's deliberately reminding the listener of the source materials involved in order to appreciate all the more the musical treatment that he's fashioned from them. In nudging the sound design into a comparatively more hermetic zone, “Blanket and Radiator” (the Duclos collaboration) suggests a sojourn into an alien atomic universe where every creak and squeak has been amplified so as to maximize its sonic impact. Elsewhere, Calika's presence is audible during the brief “Blue Stem Sister” in the oddball cut's broken beat funk rhythms.
The album's central track is clearly “Attaching Softness to a Shell,” a twenty-two-minute excursion into an immersive galaxy that also incorporates the work of Professor Andrea Polli, who generated sounds from hurricane-related data. Not surprisingly given the track's duration, the piece unfolds unhurriedly as a series of creeping, slow-motion episodes, some heavily field recordings-oriented and others spacey in their emphasis on synthetic treatments (a baby's woozy cry even surfaces near track's end). If that piece is the one most characterized by meditative exploration, the closing “Meditation on Distance” is arguably the one most focused on an overt musical design, given the way its elements generate insistent rhythmic patterns that at certain moments even begin to assume a rather techno-like character, even if it's techno of a severely mutant kind.
Microsounds, found sounds, and sound manipulation form the basis for Autistici’s Attaching Softness. Ranging from soft, warm flows to well-calculated tangles of glitch, this release revels in its sonic textures. It needs to be listened to closely to get the most out of musician David Newman’s machinations. Between the use of tiny sounds and the way he nudges things around in your head, there’s constantly a good amount to take in and a carefully crafted dynamic. Newman sets up an interesting dichotomy; his constructs can be quite mesmerizing, particularly when you’re well into the middle of the 22-minute title track, but his judicious use of sounds that clatter and rattle suddenly in the midst of it work to keep the listener focused. You’re lulled but aware. (Like me, you may also be lulled but slightly annoyed when the crying baby comes in…) In contrast, Newman’s collaboration with Calika, “Blue Stern Sister,” is a playful piece built on delightfully sloppy drumming and a groovy little bass line. Let it bounce pleasantly around in your noggin like it’s trying to find its shape and being quite content not to. Attaching Softness comes in under an hour, with the title track and the drone-and-clatter closer, “Meditation on Distance,” accounting for 32 minutes of it, but even the short pieces pack their own meaningful depth and distinct character. There is no wasted sound here, no matter how minuscule, and it’s all infused with a very moving quality. Intimate and interesting, it’s a release I find myself peering more deeply into each time I listen.
This album is of the not so common cases where the title is a key to understand his construction principles. The title is from a track that, according to the linear notes, 'amplifies and recontextualises the musicality of natural sounds' so the result is an album as subtle his development as aesthetically engaging. The quiet field recordings of 'Battery set up in a forest clearing' open this release slowly evolving in a quiet and bright drone colored by a synth line. 'Blanket and radiator', made with Henry Duclos, is based upon the juxtaposition of small noises and glitches and a quiet soundscape. 'Attaching softness to a shell', with Andrea Polli, is something between field recordings and soundscape being neither of the two as it starts quietly as an ambient track, then it evolves with field recording filtered to exalt his spectral properties using his clean version to color the track and it closes with a sort of child voice or a bird song, an amazing and demanding listening. 'Blue stem sister', with Calika, is a rhythmic interlude to 'Projections from a prayer' and so they seem to form a single track as they share formal similarities. 'Meditation on distance' closes this release with a quiet soundscape made out with a drone and small noises and it's something between ambient and lowers cape quietly culling the listener to the end of this release.
This album marks a milestone in the production of this artist and is one of the best releases this year in this field.
A partire dal precedente “Beneath Peaks”, David Newman ha concentrato la propria attenzione su fonti sonore naturalistiche, da incorporare nelle sue manipolazioni di texture chitarristiche. “Attaching Softness” prosegue dunque quel percorso, temperandone tuttavia lo spirito bucolico attraverso pervasive screziature elettroniche, che rendono irregolare la superficie di sei brani molto diversi tra loro per concezione e durata (da un interludio di nemmeno due minuti a oltre ventidue).
Detriti microtonali e pulsanti sciabordii sintetici gravitano così in un universo di frequenze intermittenti e timbriche modulate, nel quale solo per brevi tratti si affacciano riconoscibili echi di note pianistiche ed evanescenti persistenze droniche.
La morbidezza di cui al titolo del disco, mutuata da quello del brano più lungo “Attaching Softness To A Shell”, è dunque piuttosto quella della densa materia plasmata da Newman, in simbolica analogia con quella degli addensamenti atmosferici degli uragani, a tratti fonte “concreta” esclusiva di una sequenza di vibrazioni e impulsi che del naturalismo sonoro ha assorbito le componenti più incorporee ed enigmatiche.
Audiobulb is releasing Autistici’s new work, Attaching Softness. Autistici is Sheffield’s (UK) David Newman, one of the premiere sound designers in Europe. Attaching Softness is a collection of detailed microsound pieces including collaborative works with Calika and Henry Duclos.
A collection of detailed microsound pieces including collaborative works with Calika and Henry Duclos. It includes the original full-length version of Attaching Softness to a Shell. About half of the (50 minute) album is reserved for the centerpiece "Attaching Softness to a Shell". This track amplifies and recontextualises the musicality of natural sounds, setting them in an environment musical and rhythmic flows. At times the track is pure recordings (incorporating the work of Professor Andrea Polli - who extrapolated data regarding hurricanes and used this to generate sound).