Mei Zhiyong & Dave Phillips si sono incontrati per la prima volta a Pechino nel luglio 2014. Il primo non parlava una parola d’inglese e l’altro – al contrario – non conosceva una sola parola di cinese. L’occasione fu quella di un tour assieme in diciotto città orientali, programmazione ricambiata da Dave Phillips nell’ottobre del 2015 con performance in venti città europee. Nel corso di questi successivi live sono stati registrati moltissimi suoni, frutto del lavoro di Mei Zhiyong, sequenze che poi Dave Phillips ha utilizzato come materiale sorgente, andando a scegliere, distillare e a manipolare ulteriormente quello che riteneva più interessante ed ispiratore, creando ad arte un’amalgama dei due differenti stili, qualcosa d’effettivamente inconsueto per entrambi gli artisti. L’audio-abuso di Mei Zhiyong e le sue estasi sonore incontrano insomma – senza possibilità alcuna di confusione – le più strutturate tecniche di composizione di Dave Phillips, un musicista che è comunque avvezzo ad ambientazioni immersive e catartiche, che considera il suono come una forma di comunicazione diretta e primaria. Il risultato è quello di un album decisamente fascinoso, urticante, ma infine ricondotto ad alternanze soniche che contemplano anche pause e ripartenze, momenti di pieno e silenzi, distorsioni e registrazioni accidentali, rumore confezionato in rigorose forme e assestamenti di volumi. La sensazione è anche quella che dei flussi siano più persistenti e sfumino in altri senza discontinuità marcatamente forzate, all’insegna di trame che sono anche industriali e noise: decisamente quest’ultimo l’approccio più immediatamente riconoscibile dai non specialisti di simili complesse sperimentazioni. “La musica è un’intrinseca forza politica del cambiamento, espressa tramite LP in vinile e uscite digitali” dicono alla Urbsounds Collective, una crew sperimentale che dal 2016 è diventata anche una piattaforma distributiva, alla quale si deve la pubblicazione di questo progetto. Mai come in questo caso – da provenienze e vissuti alquanto differenti – il risultato è coeso, con al centro un suono concreto e senza fronzoli, crudo, ma in qualche modo “intelligente”, estremamente radicale e grave, forgiato per vibrare ed emozionare.(Neural, April 2018)
Dave Phillips is a sonic activist, composer, performer and researcher based in Zurich, Switzerland. Mei Zhiyong (or MeiZhiyong) is a Chinese artist now living in Changchun City, Jilin Province, China working in harsh noise, experimental music, independent film, photography, and field recording. Both of these artists have illustrious credentials in the field. dp has been a purveyor of radical sound since the mid 80’s, working solo since 1987, and has developed a unique sonic language typified by sharp compositional techniques and strong environmentalist connotations. A few of the projects he has been associated with include Fear of God, Ohne, Perverts in White Shirts, Rabid Dogs, Dead Peni, and Schimpfluch-Gruppe. According to the text on his website, “dp re/searches and ponders existences and behaviourisms humanimalistically. Sound as communication in direct and primal form, a language, a tool of metaphysics, a conscience and a consciousness, opposing the omnipresent restriction and reduction of life and living. Sound communications that activate primordial shared emotions otherwise hidden under the debris of civilization, inviting rumination, encouraging intervention, endorsing catharsis, therapeutical stimulation is acknowledged. sonic activism, ritual protest music.” Mei Zhiyong has releases going back to 2011, tours quite a bit and has this to say regarding noise (music): “exploring the nature of the way, the body is a tool, thought is a program. All the manic, quiet, extreme, abnormal have been preset by procedures and tools,noise is the carrier of breaking all the rules, only impaling nothingness will really make you get rid of the contradiction between voice and body, between body and mind.” Pretty heady concepts that blow away the misconception that “all these guys want to do is take out their frustrations by making noise.” There could be a degree of that involved but it certainly isn’t their raison d’être.
This isn’t the first collaboration between Phillips and Zhiyong; more like the third, as far as released recordings go. On this limited edition (300 copies) LP on the Slovakian Urbsounds Collective label the recording and composition is by Dave Phillips while all sounds are by Mei Zhiyong. Think on that a bit. Before I begin discussing what transpires on this recording, I must reiterate my sentiments on noise music. It is a genre that that has steadily declined in what I favor, and my tolerance for, and appreciation of it has significantly diminished. Where I once found a cacophony of sound stimulating and invigorating, perhaps even cathartic now and then, now I tend to find most of it annoying and irritating, leaving an acrid taste like handling a mildewed record. That said, I can still give you an idea what’s going on here. There are no track names, just two sides - the A side clocking in at 15:45 and B side at 18:54. The A side begins with some manipulated vocal utterances by Mei Zhiyong morphing into a variety of electronic noise squalls. Throughout the recording(s) a variety of sonic environments are explored- hyper-electronic mutant animal farm, annoying air raid drone, field recording of ambient small crowd chatter, strange machineshop, bursts of static, alien factory, chaos at the broken videogame arcade, destruction of all relevant (and some irrelevant) equipment, raping circuitry, and more. Not all is hellacious; there are some passages of calm monotony. They don’t last terribly long though. Considering that these recordings were culled from the duo’s 2015 European tour, I have reason to believe they were collaged by Phillips as sort of a “greatest hits” of maximum intensity and velocity, sort of an audio documentary with multiple layers for maximum effect. You must realize that the source was improvised, even if the mix was a tad calculated. Noise enthusiasts might drive themselves a bit crazy trying to figure this all out, but that only enhances the record’s replay value as one wonders what the hell was going on at certain given points. This one is certainly not for noise novices as a deep regard for the discordant, jarring and explosive is required.
Schimpfluch Gruppe’s prized Humanimal-Aktionist Dave Phillips needs no introduction round here, though Mei Zhiyong – his confederate for this collaboration LP – may be less familiar to SP readers, which didn’t stop him racking up kudos in 2014, when he organised a tour of China for/with Herr Phillips. Live videos show the man to be a beast behind the mixing desk, pumping out torrents of effluent noise that could pass for that of ‘80s/’90s scum-noise-mongers such as Hijokaidan, Incapacitants or even Otomo Yoshihide on a strident night. This LP, a typically Schimpfluchian cut n’paste montage, is sourced from slivers of the Sino-Swiss double-act’s subsequent, 20-city rampage across Europe in 2015, which must have left audiences breathless and Phillips with much to wade through while editing this monster.
First thing out the window is linear time: the record obliterates any sense of what happened during these shows, but in its warped continuum of sudden shifts, subdermal explosions, subterranean drones, dulled voices, animal growls, and occasional sonic pixelation as Phillips zooms deep into his materials, offers some idea of the audience’s disorientation. The prolific Phillips’ probably threw this all together on the fly, filleting his digital archives of tasty bits as he gave them the once-through; burnishing the sum into a ferocious form of electroacoustic wizardry without wasting a moment. Hewn of fat, flatulence and dead air are the visceral shits and giggles, leaving only muscle and menace: an approach eminently preferable to even a highlight-cuts compilation, much less the bloated live document format. For this we are eternally grateful.(Stuart Marshall, The Sound Projector, September 2017)
If I understand this correctly we are dealing here with a record that was recorded by the upcoming (?) noiseman Mei Zhyong during his tour in Europe, in September 2015 (list of dates provided on the insert). Sound recordist on duty for this tour, most likely because he also played, was Dave Phillips, who also gets credit for the composition of the music. While I am not sure, I would think this record is a forty-minute (give or take) collage of live recordings, sometimes layered on top of each other and Phillips applies some of his usual technique of dropping sounds in and out of the mix at seemingly random positions, while other sounds are continuous. Zhyong’s music is usually quite without any mercy on the listener, so when I stuck this on my record player, I carefully checked the volume level, but I found this to be not as forcefully loud and present as I anticipated. Surely there is a brutal approach to sound here, mucho distortion as it happens, tons of feedback weighing like a ton, acoustic bursts of contact microphone abuse, but also accidental recordings of whatever else goes on before and after a concert; ever the recyclist, mister Phillips, I would say with a smile. He doesn’t like to waste anything and why should he? All sound can be music and if it fits the overall composition, then why not use it; or some such thoughts. All in all this is a pretty fine album of noise, but without being for the sake of noise. This is the kind of noise that is made with some deliberate actions, considerations and care for composition. That in my book is always a good thing.(Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly, Issue 1080)