REVIEW: URBAN SOUNDS (US)
Spinoza once observed, and Deleuze famously recalled, that "we do not yet know what a body can do." Growing up listening to Minor Threat and Metallica, I learned quickly some of the possibilities. This was music designed for volume, where a body's response seemed dictated not so much by the metaphorical demands of speed and pause as by the sculptural nuances of density and girth. (Hip-hop and heavy metal's first point of contact was in the importance of a good car stereo.) Volume, though my parents never understood it, was a means to observation, with detail a function of resolution accessible only at the level (literally) of decibels. 0/r begins with a similar premise, though its specifics lie closer to the 0 than the 10 (or, as it were, the 11) on the volume knob. This isn't the cathartic masachismo of Merzbow or the power electronics set; Nosei Sakata's (a.k.a. *0) and Richard Chartier's pushings are achieved primarily upon the space of mentation - the tympanum, the cochlear curl, the tension and release of the cranial cavity - and work only at low volumes, where needle-like frequencies and constellations of elutriated noise agitate perception in the absence of the forced distraction of pain. The effect is related, however, and sound becomes a rarefied stimulus of corporeal affects the demands of which take precedence over any attempts to explain why or how this music might be "good." Music put to such uses no longer offers itself up to the arbitrary schemata of aesthetic or even conceptual value; it realigns sound with a process such that the body is made strange again. Taylor Deupree dutifully christened this approach "microscopic," and the music to appear recently on his 12k label (including 0/r and Shuttle358's Optimal.lp) seems committed to putting down a kind of definition. The sounds are indeed "small," sometimes imperceptibly so, but the term is more concerned with the scientific level of precision necessary, for example, in the optimal placement of the speakers during playback, or the orientation of the head in acoustical space. (Headphones are not advised.) 0/r is the result of a mail-based collaboration between Sakata, based in Tokyo, and Chartier, based in Washington, D.C., and comes packaged in a beautifully simple die-cut tear-away sleeve.