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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

John Wiese - Deviate From Balance [Gilgongo Records - 2015]

John Wiese is a well known LA based composer creating abrasive avant garde somewhere between free jazz, noise and modern classical, active since 2000.  "Deviate From Balance" is an otherworldly musique concrete and ambient recording with a variety of approaches and sound sources from track to track, though consistently embracing free rhythm chaos and a surreal, occultish tension not unlike Naked City's "Absinthe" or "Heretic".  Looking at the liner notes, these pieces span more than a decade previous, some being studio recordings while others originally parts of installations, etc.

At one moment, Wiese's music is like a distant subterranean glimmer, a softly luminescent and tonal drone sound, inviting in its mysterious emotion.  Elsewhere, we hear him employing a style closer to the freeform collage-style racket of 80's Merzbow, a loosely organized clamour of metallic impacts, rattles, taps, et cetera in which ordinary domestic objects are likely employed as noisemakers; in other words, the sound could quite possibly the product of shaking a garbage bag filled with metal kitchenware.

Such is the third piece "Segmenting Process For Language".  Unlike Merzbow, Wiese will insert flourishes of dissonant scalar piano in a quite intentional manner similar to the antagonistic work of 20th century avant garde classical composers (Schoenberg, Boulez).  The recording quality is crisp and immediate, and I am delighted to hear sound textures which prove difficult to identify.  An intimidating, vibrating bassy sound seems at first to be a lawn mower, and by its end, some kind of massive primitive horn.  Lack of context is part of what makes this music interesting, as it forces the listener's brain to contend with the sounds in their raw forms, without preconceptions about what they are.

All manner of crackling, tapping and rustling noise is worshipped by Wiese through the next several piece, including what sounds to me like the noise generated by guitar cables when jostled about (in a track called 'Battery Instruments (Stereo)', and the unforgivingly sharp and abrasive 'crunch' of a homemade piezo disk contact mic.  Noisy free jazz style improvisations are shaped into whirling currents of warped momentum, as if the speed of time is being circulated in a washing machine.  "356 S Mission Rd" samples heavily from the most dissonant moments of vintage 70's orchestral score music, with its nostalgic, rough hewn analog tape fidelity.

"Memaloose Walkman" is simply 3 minutes of successive thunderous gunshots, captured in blasted out, distorted fidelity by some kind of handheld recording device while outdoors.  It's a bit jarring and violent compared to the previous sounds on the album, as is the following piece, "Dramatic Accessories", a snarling and apologetically chaotic squall of harsh noise which seems to incorporate small obliterated fragments of some kind of human voice, possibly a radio broadcast, or Wiese himself.

It's hard to know what to make of John Wiese's wholly abstract and ambiguous freeform sound universe, rich with diverse and complex timbres violently strewn about in top heavy piles.  For afficionados of musique concrete, the lack of conventional beauty or clear meaning will pose no obstacle, and this album is a no brainer, certainly an example of unpretentious, sound focused experimentation, driven by an inventive thought process.  As for me, I enjoy many of the sounds, and the spirit in which they are made, but feel there could be more focus or structure applied, and a few less tracks that sound like pulling tape aggressively back and forth across the reader head.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Josh Landry
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