Date: July 2010
Cat & Format: AB030 | CDr & DD
Volume II brings together archive material from 2001 to 2005. The collection features abstract ambience, a focus on microsounds and digital sculpting of audio from everyday objects. From the pitched down tones of an Asian dawn chorus (Waking The Sky), drone tones and record player mechanics (Soft Grey Generator), cutlery drawer clatters (Cutlery) and animal calls against a tense farm environment (Farm); each track represents a place and a part from Autistici’s life.
Slow Temperature is the bridge between Autistici’s artistic conception and his Volume Objects release in 2008 (12k). Works illustrate a fascination with the interplay of silence, space and sound. At times tiny explosions of electronic output are extrapolated into a compositional whole (Stone Steps Into Water & Projections From a Prayer). The album ends with Workshop for Ambitious Dreamers a study into the manipulation of sinewaves, oscillators and analogue electro-harp plucks exploring themes of subjectivity and freedom in thought and speech.
A follow-up to the excellent Detached Metal Voice compilation of early material from Autistici, this second instalment covers works recorded between 2001-2005. Autistici is the recording alias of David Newman, head of the Audiobulb label, though arguably his key work to date has come courtesy of the 12k label. The 2008-released Volume Objects remains an engagingly musical example of the microsound genre, though at the time you'd never have expected Autistici to have already accumulated such a rich archive of material. Compared with the first Early Works release, the music here is indicative of a more cultured technician, with pieces like 'Farm', 'Cutlery' and 'Stone Steps Into Water' revealing the workings of an accomplished experimental sound engineer. Similarly, mysterious electroacoustic miniatures like '14 Switches On A Hidden Wall' or 'Soft Grey Generator' stir up all manner of intriguing noises without sufficiently conforming to structure or narrative to be thought of as compositions in any strict sense, but they're ideal material for this enjoyable retrospective series.
While Detached Metal Voice was a somewhat diverse collection, ranging from the relatively straightforward to the more overtly experimental, Slow Temperature, the second instalment of early material is an altogether much more coherent release and is in essence much closer to Newman’s two albums proper in the approach to textures and how they fit in together.
Built primarily from sounds sourced from everyday objects and ambient noises, the tracks collected on Slow Temperature documents how Newman progressively refined his sound by focusing on the subtle details of his source components, and found a voice of his own. This is particularly evident on pieces such as Soft Grey Generator, Stone Steps Into Water, Projections From A Prayer or Carved From Lips, as he arranges tiny sonic particles into complex abstract structures. By combining environmental sounds and noises with stark electronics and effects, Newman creates fascinating little worlds, each perfectly self-contained, which, despite sporadic familiar flavours, appear totally alien and, at times, quite hostile. These can take on extremely minimal appearances, as on Projections From Prayer for instance, which consists, for the most part, of very little more than a few layered metallic sounds, or Workshop For Ambitious Dreamers, with its short outbursts of electronics propelled into fragments of melody. At others, the soundscapes are far denser and richer, and have a propensity to change, sometimes quite radically, a number of times during the course of a piece, as is the case with Farm, which starts with clusters of noises and glitches, but soon evolves into a much more sombre drone, criss-crossed with statics, what sounds at times like a bumblebee, and at others, like a much more undefined hum, and, at one point, quite curiously, a duck.
Autistici is David Newman, producer of lowercase digitalia for the likes of 12k and head of the Audiobulb label. Slow Temperature is his second instalment of previously unreleased material, this time from between 2001-2005, after April’s Detached Metal Voice; Early Works Volume 1. For a subsequently-compiled collection of presumably unrelated tracks and off-cuts, Slow Temperature demonstrates a surprising degree of coherence and completion.
Favouring clunky bleep tones and modulating digital gloop, all clouded in random hiss, much of Slow Temperature recalls the likes of Daphne Oram, clipped Radiophonic Workshop products wedged into microsound structures. Source material derives from Newman’s domestic and local environments, evident from track titles (‘Cutlery’, ‘Farm’), and/or personal concerns (‘Counting Sleep’, ‘Workshop for Ambitious Dreamers’), and the music proceeds in a fittingly low-key, welcoming manner. Introductory ‘Waking the Sky’ features strings of bird calls announcing the day over murky haze and tape warble. ‘Stone Steps Into Water’ skips small blip pebbles into puddles, following the ripples in their dank circles. ’14 Switches on a Hidden Wall’, the longest piece here at ten minutes, coats rusty chimes and a sustained organ tone in flange and echo, while the two-minute sketch of ‘Soft Grey Generator’ pans crackle across the spectrum, and is just as pleasing.
The second volume, subtitled Slow Temperature, contains more archival material from David Newman, featuring “abstract ambience, a focus on microsounds and digital sculpting of audio from everyday objects.” In this selection, Autistici explores silence, space and sound, reflecting on individual parts of his own life. The composition is heavy with elements requiring your full listening attention, further decomposition, and reflective analysis, worthy of sound installation in a museum, or an exclusive performance at this sound technician’s audio lab. The last piece, Workshop for Ambitious Dreamers, is a study into the “manipulation of sinewaves, oscillators and analogue electro-harp plucks exploring themes of subjectivity and freedom in thought and speech.” Truly remarkable, thought-provoking, and deep. You’ll need a few hours to absorb… Be sure to also pick up Autistici’s lauded Volume Objects, released on 12k back in 2008.
Though Slow Temperature - Early Works (Vol. 2) features music from a similar period of Austici's infancy, its demeanour is discreetly different. Less mannered and self-conscious in its courting of 'darkness' or outright weirdness, it suggests a transition towards the more approachable, though by no means docile, sound with which the project may be more associated (cf. 2008's 12k coming out). The palette of abstract ambience, with its microsonic sculpting of source sounds derived from quotidian objects familiar from that, his best known release, is well in evidence, seguing from the pitch-shifted tones and warped ambient backdrop of an Asian dawn chorus ('Waking The Sky') to the drones and phonographic-mekanik of "Soft Grey Generator"; from "Cutlery"'s kitchen drawer realia to animalia against a peculiarly ambiguous rural ambience on "Farm". Artistic ambit is increasingly that of interplay between silence, space and sound. There is also a notable propensity for greater subtlety in his sound-collagism, evident in the minute bursts of electronics infusing a more composed whole in "Stone Steps Into Water" and "Projections From A Prayer". And "Carved from Lips" signals more of an ear for something approaching harmonic sensibility, albeit wilfully forsaken for uneasy atonalism as soon as the listener feels too comfily aligned with its lulling contours. "Meditation on Distance" is similarly perched between outwardly blithe spirit and a slow fall inward, its surface organ harmonies woozily bending, riddled with tiny glitch-darts and digi-fissures. Overall, Newman here exhibits a more cultured take on experimental sound engineering with these enigmatic electroacoustic vignettes. Over the two early works, Autistici's nature reveals itself, if not red in tooth and claw, certainly less refined, and, particularly on Slow Temperatures, none the worse for it, properly 'experimental' in the truest sense of playing around with sound to see how it comes out, and exploring various musico-transformative possibilities.
Back in Vital Weekly 720 I reviewed the first volume of 'Early Works' by Autistici and here is already the second volume. It covers the period of 2001-2005, which made me think this project has been around for a longer period of time than I thought. Its the project of David Newman, also responsible for the Audiobulb label, who culls his sound material from everyday life: Asian dawn chorus, record player mechanics and animal calls. I forgot to mention when that previous set of recordings was made, but this old material forecasts some of the later interests of Newman. Already into the world of microsound, with lots of careful processing of sound. This type of playing later resulted in 'Volume Objects', his 12K debut CD (see Vital Weekly 607). Maybe I think the playing here is a bit more raw and unrefined, but it adds to the charm of the music. Its not that super refined microsound of the latter work, but nice try-outs of material and exploring the various possibilities to transform sounds into music. Overall a much nicer and more coherent release than the first volume of 'Early Works'.
Autistici is the musical alter ego of David Newman, who also happens to run the Audiobulb record label. Newman is based in Sheffield, which is a long way away from London, New York, Los Angeles, or even Seattle—where I am writing from. But good music is never confined to geographic locations, as we all know. Even in this global internet world there is a tendency, however, to focus on music from your “local” area. I mention this because the music of Autistici (and that of the Audiobulb label in general) seems practically unknown in the United States. So I am doing my small part to spread the word.
There are three pretty fascinating releases here which I'm addressing. The first two are Autistici recordings titled Detached Metal Voice (Early Works Volume 1) and Slow Temperature (Early Works Volume Two). The third is Autistici Reworked - Resonating Wires. This third entry contains ambient remixes by various artists of some of the later Autistici music.
Fair enough. Now let’s move on to Volume Two: “Slow Temperature brings together archive material from 2001—2005. The collection features abstract ambience, a focus on micro-sounds and digital sculpting of audio from everyday objects.”
In all honesty—as those descriptions clearly show—this is music that is a little difficult to describe. To sum things up, though, the most obvious word people would use would probably be “dissonant.” That term is pretty loaded, though, and does not really do justice to the music at hand. Just be ready for something a little less melodic than the “usual” fare.
I remember the first time I heard John Coltrane really “go out there,” and wondering how (or why) anyone would listen to music as disconcerting as that was. Jeez—that was a live version of “My Favorite Things” recorded in 1963! Then I heard Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz, and even though all of my friends hated it, I began to understand the ideas behind it all.
As Newman himself says, his appreciation for music was a growth process. It took me a while for me to understand why John Cage’s 4’33” is so cool. Although many people think it is all about silence, the piece is actually all about the audience. The discomfort and rustling of papers for four minutes and thirty-three seconds is the “song.”
Yes it is conceptual, and yes one could call it pretentious. But it is pretty damned fascinating when you understand its real point. The real point of the early works of Autistici? Despite my earlier comments, the music is not really that dissonant at all. In fact, I quite enjoyed both albums.
I commend David Newman for what he is doing with the Audiobulb label, and it seems that the basic description (besides the early Autistici recordings) are what most of us would term “ambient” music. Tired of the “same old same old?” Then try something truly unique. Visit the Audiobulb label site and discover a whole new world of music.