Paul Hegarty and Mick O'Shea - Easy Perfection Salad [Farpoint Recordings - 2018]Farpoint Recordings have since their inception in the mid 2000s quietly been releasing a series of quality records pirouetting through the hinterlands of improvisation, electronic experimentation and performance. Paul Hegarty is better known as a writer an academic working in aesthetics, and has authored books on modern French philosophy as well as the history of noise music. He puts theory into practice as a member of both SAFE and Maginot. Here he collaborates on a suite of live recordings made on Sherkin island and the city of Cork with Mick O'Shea, who is predominantly known for his live homemade electronics.
There is an immediate mystery afoot regarding the relationship between the numerous photographs of the wooden shell of a hut, built upon scrub land, which adorn the A2 fold out poster which comes with the CD. Two men - presumably the artists - are milling around, collecting and modifying objects around the building's skeletal frame. Since the only other clue is that according to the notes the artists "found and prepared all materials herein", we can perhaps assume that the occasion for the record is linked to the notion of construction using found objects, or some other naturalistic or scavenger type procedure. Certainly the music within is of a highly improvised and spontaneous kind.
Vegetables 1 kicks off the record on a surreal note, as against a backdrop of buzzing analogue electronics a distant voice speaks - fearfully to these ears - of liking "pickles, not piccalilli. Just pickles". It's not easy to pick out the words, but as the synthesiser noise modulates around unidentifiable found percussive sound the repeated phrases take on a quotidian mantra like quality. The second in the Vegetables series of tracks maintains the sound pallet of the first but loses the surreal spoken word. There's a heavy reverb on all the bowing, clanking, scraping sounds that seems to float over the gentle LFO throb of synthesiser drones.
After this opening salvo the remainder of the record is taken up by three extended tracks; the longest MEAT render at over 21 minutes. Before the render, however, we have the MEAT trimmings, nearly eighteen minutes of slowly evolving free noise and industrial dread, set well back within a cavernous reverb. There's fewer electronic interventions on show here, with the much of the sound coming from bowed and scraped metal of various kinds, reminiscent of early Organum or even Nurse With Wound's 1980s foray into the live arena. In truth the range of sounds is thin on the ground and any interplay between the players is difficult to detect. An occasional phrase or repeated gesture arises from the gloom only to fall back again rather than being developed. MEAT render adds delay effects and electronics to the mix with more success. There's a greater sense of intention in the layering and counterpoint between the synthesised and acoustic elements which suggests more interplay between Hegarty and O'Shea. There's also more light and shade (well different shades of shade anyway!) as busier passages of strained electronics give way to quieter moments combining subtle feedback drones, light static and strange rustling and creaking deep in the mix.
Finally The Shed drops much of the cavernous reverb and we can hear some of those acoustic sources up close and personal. After the large spaces implied in the previous productions it's almost jarring to the hear the players working so close and relatively unclothed in effects. The approach yields benefits though, as the creepiness of all those crackling, unidentifiable sounds is lifted in favour of more obvious cooperation and creative use of the material available. Contact microphones on wooden objects tingle the ear ASMR style, while a range of bowed and struck objects circle around. Another comparison one might draw is with the output of fellow Ireland based improviser Aranos who has at times also favoured a minimal and "found" selection of sound sources. The record however does suffer the same disconnect that afflicts much sound art and free improvisation; that between the sound of the thing and the images or ideas that purportedly accompany it. On the face of it, this a dark sounding record, and yet the amusing agrarian photographs that make up the double sided poster, and the modus operandi of the pair of improvisers, would suggest a more playful approach. Nevertheless Easy Perfect Salad still provides a balanced diet of avant-garde sonics.