Dave Phillips & Aspec(t) - Medusa

CD, 2014, Noise Below/Excrete Music, Athens/Greece.   Available

edition of 300

Dpa-medusa-front

Dpa-medusa-outside



REVIEWS

Ah noise. Noise of the variation that I like. It all started with an article about eating fish - www.monbiot.com/2007/04/03/feeding-frenzy/ - recommended to read first. At the foundation of this release is source material recorded by Italian noise improvisation duo Aspec(t) in April 2011 and the scissor approach of Dave Phillips when it comes to transforming this material. Now, an average noise artist would probably play this material through some distortion pedals, adding more noise and fuzz to it; Phillips on the other takes the material apart in an old fashioned tape manner: cutting it up, re-arranging it and maybe (just: maybe) adds some of his own material to it, by colouring it with sound effects. Phillips is a master at this technique I think. He cuts his material very short, adds silence (very important), so whatever short sounds we have, get room to breath. Sometimes he creates a loop, a repeated bang such as in ‘Hammerhead’, adds field recordings, a rudimentary synth here and there, and cuts it off, and switches on something entirely new. That makes these fifty minutes a great trip, a loud one too, as he records his sound loudly, with many swift changes. An excellent manifestation of musique concrete in its most crude and pure form. There is of course the political undercurrent - save the animals, become a vegan - that is also part of the work of Dave Phillips - but it’s not forced down your throat. The message is subtle and the music stands by itself. I am not sure if that is what Phillips would want, but to me it’s like that. Top noise release.

(Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly, Issue 934, May 2014)

Si SEC_ et Dave Phillips sont deux artistes que j’admire énormément mais qui n’ont pas grand-chose en commun, je profite de la sortie de leur première collaboration…
SEC_ vient de publier une collaboration entre Dave Phillips et son duo Aspec(t), intitulée Medusa. On retrouve donc SEC_ au Revox, à l’électronique et peut-être au synthé ou à l’ordi, Mario Gabola au saxophone acoustique ou en feedback, plus quelques objets percussifs, et Dave Phillips aux field-recordings. La pochette n’indique pas les instruments et les outils utilisés, je ne suis pas très sûr de ce que j’avance. Elle n’indique pas grand-chose d’ailleurs, hormis le titre des 23 pistes qui composent ce disque, et surtout que les matériaux initiaux ont été enregistrés à Naples en 2011, puis qu’ils ont été « disséqués et réassemblés » entre janvier et mai 2013, à Zürich (où réside Dave Phillips) et à Naples (d’où vient le duo italien). Je ne suis donc pas sûr que les trois musiciens aient joués ensemble en live lors de ces enregistrements de 2011, mais la composition de ce disque s’est apparemment faite à distance en 2013. Quoi qu’il en soit, le résultat est surprenant. On distingue toutes les personnalités, personne n’a essayé de « copier » l’esthétique de l’autre, ni de la mettre en avant, chacun fait ce qu’il fait d’habitude, et le fait très bien. On navigue donc entre le field-recording psychoacoustique, l’improvisation électroacoustique, la noise et la musique concrète sans discontinuité. Ce qui est surprenant, par-dessus-tout, c’est que l’entreprise était risquée car ces différentes esthétiques n’ont pas grand-chose à voir, et pourtant, elles collent très bien ensemble – ce qui, à mon avis, est surtout du au long travail de remaniement à distance et en studio des enregistrements initiaux. Concrètement, de quoi s’agit-il ? Pour ceux qui connaissent SEC_, Mario Gabola et Dave Phillips, ce n’est pas difficile de s’imaginer la rencontre, ils font tous ce qu’ils font d’habitude, mais l’assemblage reste tout de même étonnant à mon avis. Mais pour ceux qui ne les connaissent pas tous, sachez que ce disque offre un cocktail explosif de courtes vignettes sonores composées de cris bestiaux, de voix transformées (accélérées, découpées, hachées, etc.) par le biais de bandes magnétiques, d’explosions impromptues de bruit harsh, et de techniques étendues et électroacoustiques au saxophone. Un disque qui navigue avec aisance entre des compositions très calmes et continues, d’autres qui opposent les explosions de bruit et d’improvisations au Revox aux enregistrements de terrains sombres et continus, ou aux sons concrets de Gabola (percussifs ou instrumentaux). Le trio propose des pièces ultra violentes et déstructurées, d’autres plus calmes et linéaires, des pièces concrètes, d’autres totalement abstraites et bruitistes, mais avec toujours une grande attention au son et une inventivité sonore surprenantes. Car tous ces musiciens ont un langage qui leur est propres, un langage créatif, puissant, extrême, et ils vont tous très bien ensemble.

(Julien Héraud, Improvsphere, September 2014)

”The jellyfish eat the eggs and larvae of the fish, so the switch is probably irreversible. We have entered, the paper tells us, ‘the era of jellyfish ascendancy’. It’s a good symbol. The jellyfish represents the collapse of the ecosystem and the spinelessness of the people charged with protecting it.” George Monbiot
Esordisco con le parole sciaguratamente profetiche (mi piacerebbe pensarla in altre maniere) dell’ambientalista britannico Monbiot, perché il suo articolo “Feeding Frenzy” ha liberamente ispirato questo disco e perché riassumono – vale sia per lo scritto sia per l’album – il valore simbolico di questa strana, quasi aliena, creatura. È comunque necessario qualche piccolo preambolo su questo lavoro a sei mani. Sappiamo delle implicazioni che lo svizzero Phillips ama dare ai suoi lavori, quei suoi tentativi, quasi, di riempire col rumore il vuoto o la spaccatura lasciati tra natura e “civiltà” dall’ignavia degli uomini. Proprio nel periodo in cui Medusa iniziava a prendere vita per mano dei due Aspec(t) Mario Gabola (A Spirale) e Mimmo Sec_ Napolitano (2011, quindi), Phillips concludeva la gestazione di gran parte dei brani che sarebbero andati a comporre Homo Animalis. Con Insect (2003) già alle spalle e sempre con uno svizzero (Norbert Möslang, però) a raccoglierne successivamente una sorta d’eredità spirituale con la soundtrack del film “The Sound Of Insects”, possiamo parlare di Medusa come il prosieguo ideale più limpido (a dispetto degli oceani oscuri che dovremmo attraversare) della discografia dell’uomo-Schimpfluch. Sentendo Medusa, capiterà spesso – a intervalli – d’imbattersi in emersioni sonore sparute (come di bolle d’aria) o in vibrazioni a scandaglio che raschiano il fondale marino, quasi a focalizzare l’attenzione su un aspetto chiaro e preciso sin da “Non Central Nervous System Non Cephalized Body”: facilitare, in un certo senso, l’ascolto, confondendo però allo stesso tempo la comprensione. Echi pacificatori (“If The World Weren’t Such A Beautiful Place”, “Hammerhead”) strozzati – o forse asfissiati – da un’urticaria viscida (“Ripped To Shreds”) e appiccicosa (“Trash Vortex”), tra detriti elettroacustici (“Wobbling On The Edge”) mescolati da reti a strascico in masse di liquami e lische (“But It Tastes Good”), senza dimenticare tutta la sana dose di feedback, come se ci fosse una certa nostalgia per un periodo nel quale la no-input faceva scuola in lungo e in largo e di quando un mixer – cavi in abbondanza e gain al massimo – era tutto ciò di cui si aveva bisogno. È da precisare che tutta quest’area di musicisti partenopei da anni instaura collaborazioni del genere in questi ambiti (Andy Guhl su tutti), ma è significativo avere, finalmente, un lascito tangibile ad attestare ciò, anche per merito della greca Noise-Below, che nel frattempo manda fuori pure la nuova cassetta di Sec_ e Olivier Di Placido.

(Tommaso Gorelli, The New Noise, September 2014)

“The jellyfish represents the collapse of the ecosystem and the spinelessness of the people charged with protecting it.” -George Monbiot,“Feeding Frenzy”
Medusa, the first collaboration between Dave Phillips (DP) and Aspec(t), (Mario Gabola and Mimmo Napolitano) is no doubt challenging music, but as the liner notes remind us, we live in challenging times. One aspect of global climate change that’s been all too often neglected is the impact human activities have had on our oceans. Medusa refers not just to the mythical Gorgon but is also Italian for jellyfish, giving the title an added weight with the evocation of the monstrous.
Monbiot believes that the jellyfish is a good symbol for the threat we are currently facing, representing the “the collapse of the ecosystem and the spinelessness of the people charged with protecting it.” These three musicians clearly feel the same, and have mobilized this symbol as an artistic response worthy of the cause. In the above referenced article, Monbiot poses the question, “Why is it still acceptable to eat the endangered large predators of the sea?” and explains the seriousness of the issue. Inspired by Monbiot’s work, Medusa is a powerful expression of this dire situation in the form of tightly structured musique concrète events and freewheeling, at times raucous, harsh-noise. Over the course of 23 tracks and 50 minutes, the listener is subjected to all manner of sounds but it is clear that the utmost intention lurks just below the surface of these churning waves of chaos. Most of these chapters are just a minute or two, some as short as five seconds, setting a quick pace for our journey. Rather than a constant drone or wall of sound, the trio incorporate passages of relative silence into their compositions, a masterful use of dynamics to maximize the impact.
The majority of the sounds employed are abstract and unrecognizable, the theme expressed through mood and track titles rather than representation. Don’t expect any cliched ‘submerged’ filters, dripping water or splashing waves. At times brutal, other passages feature enough repetition to suggest a groove before being interrupted by a sudden shift or a lingering drone. Much of the material feels unrestrained and improvisatory in its energies, but arranged and composed so as to impose an overarching order in the form of a dedicated narrative. Channeling the image of an ecosystem under threat, an ecosystem so vast that any threat to it is a threat to us all, much of Medusa is understandably as angry and terrifying as its mythic namesake.
Waves of feedback recede into mechanical noise, field-recordings come and go, shots are fired and screams roared, words cut up and reversed so as to be denied meaning. To me, the use of feedback is the dominant trope, and nowhere has feedback been so apt of an aesthetic symbol as on Medusa. As a result of over-fishing, the fish “have been replaced by jellyfish, which now outweigh them by three to one. The jellyfish eat the eggs and larvae of the fish, so the switch is probably irreversible.” That is, we have initiated a feedback loop in nature, so how better to represent this sonically than with a powerful wave of feedback?
Active for over 25 years, the Zurich-based Phillips has been a member of Fear Of God, Ohne and Dead Peni, and in various guises employs a variety of tools utilizing voice, performance, multimedia, loops, and drum machines. His most profound engagement has been with field-recordings, in particular of the sounds of insects, frog and other animals, which make appearances in some passages here. The practice of field-recording pertains to his sonic activism and the idea of the ‘era of the ‘humanimal,’ a take on the relationship between human activities and other species (and the broader ecosystem in general) that problematizes conceptions that keep these categories overly separate. In his global travels over the last two decades he’s worked to produce an archive of field-recordings of animals and their environments. Although the hypnogogic effects of the sounds can speak for themselves, his work as an activist leads him to accompany his performances with this pamphlet expounding on the the importance of the insect world for human existence.
A collaboration with Naples’ Aspec(t) seems perfectly natural, and the resulting album quite cohesively blends Phillips aesthetic into the singular soundworld of the duo. Comprised of Mario Gabola (also of A spirale), who contributes sax, feedback and electronics, and Mimmo Napolitano (aka SEC_), who manipulates a reel-to-reel tape player and feedback from a no-input mixer, Aspec(t) represents a highpoint in the convergence of electroacoustics, noise and free improv. Both members of the duo have created mixes for the LCNL series, granting a window into their inspirations, aesthetic, and processes. Past albums, such as Abbatoir released on the French Nunn Records, showcase this style well.
A joint release by Noise-Below.org and Excrete Music #3, I shouldn’t neglect to say a word about the truly exceptional packaging. Any who picked up SEC_’s masterpiece Outflow won’t be surprised by the attention to detail given to the packaging, but images, design, and paper choices really do come together beautifully, serving as a fitting house for an album as showing as much dedication as Medusa.

(Joseph Sannicandro, A Closer Listen, November 2014)