Lance Austin Olsen & Gil Sansón - Works On Paper [Elsewhere Music - 2019]Works on Paper is a recent two-CD set, bringing together a selection of mighty fine & varied modern compositions. Each of the four tracks, as the release's title, suggests, are based around graphic scores- and each piece covers a fairly wide bit of sonic ground- going from blends of textural improv & often surreal spoken word, unsettling drone work & found sound elements, wax recording manipulation & other interesting sound elements- with all featuring often sparse & fleeting placement of formal classical instrumentation/ elements such as guitar, piano, melodica, organ and female soprano. Through-out the two discs there’s a real keen air of creativity, invention and sonic freedom- yet there is always point, flow & structure present.
The two CD’s are presented in a mini gatefold- this features photos of the original graphic scores used to create the four pieces- these scores take in elements of paint layers, fabric, torn paper, and text collage. The release appears on up & coming modern composition/ improv/ modern classical label Elsewhere Music- I’m not sure what edition this release came in, but I can’t imagine it been too high.
Each disc takes in two pieces- and these lasts between twenty-six & thirty-six minutes. Basically, each artist plays the others graphic score- and the two artists we have here are Canadian composer & painter Lance Austin Olsen, and Caracas based multimedia artists & composer Gil Sansón.
The first disc finds Gil Sansón giving his takes on a graphic score by Austin Olsen entitled Pra Mirm. So first up we get the thirty-six & a half minutes of “Pra Mim #2- works on Paper”- for this Sansón plays a mostly pared-back, at times decidedly sinister, and fairly shifting blend of creepy textural detail, hovering drone & lo-fi ambience- with moments of more formal instrumental texture & tone from time-to-time. Also along the tracks length, we get snippets of downbeat surreal texts spoken by an America male- talking hotels in London burning down, football, Richard Burton and more. The track is decidedly drifting & atmospheric, yet it never becomes boring or uneventful- as Sansón managers to create a feeling of subtle heady & at times uneasy atmosphere.
The next track on the first disc is entitled “Pra Mim #2- Fall Better”- this track is the shorter of the two coming at just over the twenty-six-minute mark. Here we get a blend of eerier textural detail & miked-up object movement, plugged & unplugged guitar elements, darts of droning melodica, wavering/ barely heard male sing-song vocals, subtle electronics & distant field recordings- all to create another very eventful & moody track, which flits between skeletal improv, electro-acoustic uneasy, and taunt-to-brooding ambience.
Moving onto the second disc, and of course, we have the two Lance Austin Olsen tracks which find the Canadian giving two takes on a graphic score by Sansón entitled Mediations. First up we "Mediations #3"- which comes in dead on the twenty eight & a half minute mark- here he utilizes a mixture of haunted & drifting wax cylinder recordings, sparse guitar, Shruti box & amplified objects. The track begins as slurred hauntology- before drifting into slightly denser moments of simmer guitar tone drifts, melted samples, and drifting textures. Before once more paring back & building again with a blend of chiming-yet- spaced guitar tones, and moody shifting object texturing. Again it's another rewarding track, which at moments gets wonderful disorientating in it’s slurred yet layered unfold.
The second track is entitled “Mediations #2”- coming in just over the twenty-six-minute mark. And this finds Olsen in fairly paired back in his sonic set-up, with just guitar & amplified objects for this track. The piece finds him offering up tense and building drone craft, which he edges with hypnotic & detail growing loops of flicking-to-spooling textural detail & tone. The track has a wonderful feeling of both slightly playful dark mystery and nicely building atmospherics- which sucks you into from the outset, and keeps you held there through-out.
As a release Works on Paper really highlights what I enjoy & ultimately love about great modern compositions- constant creative sonic flare, variation of sound use, eventful & compelling composition, and a feeling that anything can & will happen. I can see this double disc set appealing beyond the normal modern composition crowd- as there are elements here that will appeal to those who enjoy textural improv, eventful ambience, subtle surreal sound craft, and ANW/ textured static studies. Certainly, this is one of my highlights of the first half of 2019- and I strongly recommended it to anyone who’s interested in eventful experimental sound/music. Roger Batty