Review of Volume Objects [12k1045]

Tokafi (.COM)

Noises from afar heard through a door left ajar: An accessible model of music as sculpting.

It is often said that 80% of a message is processed by the eyes. No wonder, then, that more and more sound artists are trying to approach the visual arts with their music. Autistici, too, talks about his approach to composing as “sculpting” and the title of this album already provides listeners with first clues as to the threedimensional nature of its audio content. Others have gone this way before. While Norbert Möslang’s drastic data vision Header_Change on Jason Kahn’s Cut label sought for resolution in the abstract hallways of binary code, though, Volume Objects may well represent a more accessible and intuitive model.

Having said all this, it comes as a bit of a surprise to find out that up until last year, Autistici did not even have a single physical release to his credit and had instead turned into an integral part of the netlabel community. Volume Objects now comes both as a result of changes within that scene, which have lead the UK-based composer to conclude that finding high-quality material on the web is getting increasingly difficult and that there are unique benefits to a tangible medium.

Speaking more concretely, the CD is accompanied by a booklet containing black and white photography inspired by the music, courtesy of 12k label boss Taylor Deupree. The cross-sensory implications of Autistici’s music are therefore mirrored by its truly multi-medial packaging.

These images are causing cross-complications and making the appreciation of Volume Objects simultaneously more difficult and more rewarding. Deupree has shot a series of pictures all occuppied with space, entities within that space and the importance of the spectator’s relative angle: He finds peace in cold metallic wires, aesthetical clarity in fields of askew guitar pegs, comforting curvatures in simple and straight woodboards and entire life stories in a tiny fragment of granular wall structure. The connection to the music is, however, not an easy or obvious one. Quite often, one finds dissonance instead of an immediate harmonious symbiosis.

The reasons can be found directly in the way that Autistici builds his pieces. His work is marked by a constant desire to change and to permutate. In a recent interview with earlabs, he spoke of refining tracks until “the original obsessive element (i.e. the one which sparked the compositional process) has been thoroughly examined from different angles” and that is exactly how Volume Objects works: Pieces evolve along the lines of sound itself, instead of succumbing to external factors of arrangement. This evolution can be guided by juxtapositions, which seek for understanding through contextual shifts. Or it can be driven by gradual manipulation of the source material.

While the former finds its climax in two short pieces in the opening half of the album (“Heated Dust on a sunlit Window” and “Broken Guitar, Discarded Violin”), the latter is brought to perfection in the two long tracks framing Volume Objects as if it were a precious painting. “Wire Cage for Tiny Birds” opens with summerly string pluckings, fades out into the underlying field recording, then begins anew with the motives smoothened to a soft cloud of harmonics.

“Attaching Softness to a Shell (C)”, in turn, focusses the listener’s complete attention on a musical necklace of tones. Like someone playing “Snake” on his cellphone, Autistici keeps adding notes to the loop, slowing all movement down, then builds momentum again by shortening the cycle.

Transformation is one part of the album’s formula, a sense of rhythm and surprisingly concrete percussive patterns another. But what truly provides the mind with visual cues is the fact that Autistici never reveals the origins of his sounds. As a listener, you constantly find yourself feeling that this howling or that screaking seems familar, without ever really being able to put your finger on it. Volume Objects is a world of words only spelt out in half, of truths and terms on the tip of your tongue, of noises from afar heard through a door left ajar.

It is these unfinished stimuli which force the brain to actively make up the rest. Deupree’s photos confront one’s own creative mind with the endresult of the same process of someone else. Anyone who first read Lord of the Rings and then went on to watch the movie knows this can feel akward at first.

That, however, does not render them useless. Not only are they works of art on their own right, but they serve as perfect reminders of how inspiring on a highly personal level Autistici’s solo debut in the physical world has turned out to be. – By Tobias Fischer

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