Composing With Particle Interactions. How Does the Invisible Sound?

Do we have a narrative thrust here then? A story-arc of machine noise tending to sentience/language?

q07

There is a lot going on in Q07, particularly for a record which qualifies wholeheartedly as ambient noodling.

Thanks to the obliging folk at Farmacia901 the reviewed version of the album is a 24-Bit Flac recording, allowing as heightened a listening experience as is generally available in 2015. Just as well, as the complexities hidden in what might otherwise seem a sparse recording benefit from the format’s capacity to reproduce fine detail and dynamic range.

Part of the ongoing Quark: How Does the Invisible Sound artistic/sonic/scientific fusion project at Farmacia901, Q07 brings together four sound artists and sets them loose with, in Farmacia901’s words:

a MaxMSP custom software called Cconfin, inspired by elementary particles interactions and a physical phenomenon known as Colour Confinement. The software allows the artists and musicians involved to seek and discover their own vision of the invisible through sound by treating and processing audio files via custom algorithms

Well, quite.

Opening track (Mise en Scene‘s ‘Disruption) opens with a series of high-frequency details ticking and chirruping around the upper levels of the hearing range (who knows, there may be much more happening at levels above 20khz – the bats have been acting strangely lately) in the manner of binaural alphawave-triggering beats sequences so beloved on YouTube.

To translate – Mise en Scene plays with high-pitched sounds in short, Morse code-like dots and dashes, panning them from channel to channel so as to give the impression of moving from ear-to-ear. In all, there are four separate ‘voices’ at play here, each following a separate rhythm and tempo, each dominating the listener’s perception for a period.

q07

‘Below’ that (to give sound frequencies a visual reference that everyone somehow seems to understand) is a pulsating bass throb, of the sort recognisable to those whose record collections include Massive Attack’s ‘Angel’. The consequent impression of both elements conjoined in the piece is one of alien menace. Frankly, if one were to come upon an obsidian monolith emanating sounds like these, best practice might be to leave it to the monkeys and get to a deep bunker quicksmart.

Federico Placidi‘s ‘Interlude on White’ continues with the high-frequency soundstage, phasing multiple machine-like ticks and signals in patterns of oscillation which have an un-nerving tendency to sound as if they are emanating from varying areas of the listener’s own brain. This is sonic finework, panned between stero channels and capable of garnering near-physical reaction in the listener – there is teeth-grinding, nerve-jangling effect here amidst the nerdish attention to detail.

Scattered across the track are moments of hard-plucked cello, scraped violin and wood-on-wood percussion. These foregrounded elements of the soundfield are jerky and discordant, making for a distopian nihilistic soundscape, if one is feeling charitable (or sounding like the score of those terribly worthy but ultimately tedious Soviet-era animated shorts from Czechoslovakia, if one is feeling slightly more scornful). Midway through the track the scene darkens, with another of those rumbling, near-distorted bass rolls underpinning some door slams and plaintive horn tones.

Quite suddenly though, the piece seduces again, with some luscious bass bombs and panned whitenoise, getting a bit dubsteppy alongside the braindamaged string section. It is challenging, bonkers stuff, and certainly more of a high-concept avant garde soundpiece than anything more commonly described as music, but dammit, it’s fascinating too.

Emmanuel Allard‘s ‘Poem for Nanochair, table, bench (renormalization)’ is as niche-market as the name suggests. Wafting along lazily for three minutes or so before it even becomes properly noticeable, it is a series of airy synthwash chords punctuated by distant yelps (presumably from nanochair itself) which does little to arrest the consciousness although it is something of a relief from the sonic intensity of previous tracks and perhaps serves as a palate cleanser.

Shinkei‘s ‘A Scanner Darkly’ has, predictably, a sci-fi cast to it, opening with chattering R2-D2 highnotes interrogated by a more tubular synth voice played/programmed along linguistic rhythms. It fades out, then comes back in with a series of slightly more rounded tones verging on distortion at the peakier edges. This passage, in turn, fades out and is replaced by a more harmonic collection of keyboard wafts, bassy hums and roboticised spoken language. Do we have a narrative thrust here then? A story-arc of machine noise tending to sentience/language?

Perhaps. Either way, that’s one hell of a question to ask of an album of ambient electronica and testament to the art of its performers. Bravo. Farmacia901

Sean Keenan
About Sean Keenan 164 Articles
Sean Keenan used to write. Now he edits, and gets very annoyed about the word ‘ethereal’. Likely to bite anyone using the form ‘I’m loving….’. Don’t start him on the misuse of three-dot ellipses. Divides his time between mid-Spain and South-West France, like one of those bucktoothed, fur-clad minor-aristocracy ogresses you see in Hello magazine, only without the naff chandeliers. Twitter: @seaninspain

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