Various Artists - Geluidpost [Lokaal - 2009]Geluidpost comes to me by mail – suitably, as the title can be translated as sound mail. A post, however – in Dutch, at least – is also a position, or a place; despite the inherent – and probably intended – ambiguity of the name, this is probably the most relevant meaning of the word. Geluidpost is a listening room in art gallery Lokaal 1 in Breda, The Netherlands, and for the duration of 2007 and 2008 it was curated by Martijn Hohmann, who has dabbled in sound art himself. As a curator, he invited several artists – nine in total – to record a piece specifically for the listening room.
The artists Hohmann found willing to contribute turned out to be quite the big names – seeing as Geluidpost, the album, compiles tracks from artists such as noise mammoth Merzbow, renowned sound artist Francisco López and Dutch electronic wunderkind Machinefabriek, among others (seriously, I haven’t even mentioned Rudolf Eb.er, Steve Roden, Janek Schaefer yet). The two batches of artists – the 2007 and 2008 classes, so to say – both largely represent distinct strands of experimental electronics; what is referred to as recycling music for 2007, and field recordings for 2008. Since the collection is so varied, and since it features such different artists providing unique works, I’ll discuss the tracks separately.
Rutger Zuydervelt of Machinefabriek kicks off with the subtle drone of Cello Variations, another chapter in Zuydervelt’s slew of collaborations with cellist Aaron Martin in 2007. For those who know Machinefabriek, the track resonates and breathes exactly the kind of warmth that the project is known for. Janek Schaefer’s contribution is a more varied track that brings not only warm drones, but also field recordings of people walking stairs and sounds of house, snippets of TV, and organ and guitar. It’s a bit schizophrenic, yet also very accomplished – and even without the video projections that accompanied the music (or vice versa; choose your favourite) it works very well.
The Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock track gives us exactly what we expect from Rudolf Eb.er – full-on weirdness; distant screams and screechy voices, scrapes and clatter, whirls and beeps. Merzbow also presents his trademark harsh noise sound – digital or analog, it always sounds distinctly ‘Bow. Bloody Sea of Taiji, the track in question, despite bearing similarities in name to the Bloody Sea album on Vivo and the second track off Don’t Steal My Coat, is entirely new material, but it is distinct new-school Merzbow – the tapestry of screeches and distortion is all there, but with an almost annoying drum track running underneath much of it, ruining a lot of the atmosphere. A decent track, but it pales in comparison to both old-school Merzbow and the better material of new-school Merzbow.
As expected, the 2008 disc is slightly more low-key, though there are certainly some noisy moments here; all of the contributing artists communicate their own vision – literally: their auditory view of the world – resulting in a range of different types of field recordings. The (ad)vance(d) track is mostly composed of whirs and scrapes which, as it seems from the liner notes, are actually the artist scraping and brushing the walls of Geluidpost. The Sonologie Studenten track (literally: sonology students – as per the liner notes, the results of a workshop) is more traditional as it captures more recognizable environmental sounds, here and there mixed with drones and hums. From some place far away, snippets of music leak in; the resulting piece is simply excellent.
Steve Roden’s track is one of soft creaks – then random: amphibians, water? then melodic: humming, singing? – and soft tinkling – call it percussion, if you like/will/dare/must. It shares an undeniable sense of aesthetic with a label such as And/Oar or Leaf as a track that wonderfully marries accidental sounds and human interference. It is an accomplished work – one of silent, soft beauty, and it’s possibly the best cut on the album. Francisco López presents a track that is filled to the brim with the buzzing of insects and understated bird song, in a vein similar to (but slightly less noisy, perhaps, than) Daniel Menche and Kiyoshi Mizutani’s Garden. Staplerfahrer rounds things up with a track that least of all betrays its organic roots. It develops from eerie drone to a piercing clutter of sounds, before it kicks back and lets high frequency tones buzzing round your head do the talking, before it then, finally, reverts back into some good old noise for its final few minutes.
It’s difficult to write anything coherent about such a diverse collection – seeing as no one track is truly exemplary of the entire album. Of course, the one unifying concept is the artists’ contribution to Geluidpost – and their desires to inspire wonder, fear, excitement in the listeners. One may wonder to what extent these compositions can survive without the space they belong to, yet the beauty of it all is rather that these pieces can go on to exist in different spaces, and make these spaces their own – as (ad)vance(d) scrapes your living room walls, brushes alongside them; as Roden transforms your bedroom into a forest clearing lit by firefly glow.
All in all, Geluidpost is a wonderful collection that presents some fine compositions of both established artists and fresh faces, very much confirming that their approaches to experimental music, whether as established or as fresh as themselves, can and will still yield results that are relevant and inspiring. Sven Klippel