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- Symmetry-Breaking by Guy Birkin
8/10 Mike Staff review, 07 July 2011
Hey, minimal-heads. Here's one for you from sound artist Guy Birkin, with immersive tones and cut up found sounds. Each package here comes with two different versions of the album - the original, regular version, and a second unique one on which three of the tracks have been uniquely rendered for each individual copy to demonstrate how, according to the press release, "Due to the unusual way the work is realised, some of the pieces can never be rendered twice in exactly the same way." An interesting concept, although the differences seem pretty subtle to me. But then, the music itself is an exercise in subtlety, with grainy low drones and glassy, twinkling synths being the two dominant styles covered here. One thing I like about this record is that he's written a little explanation of the science and reasoning behind the creation of each piece in the liner notes, so you're given some real insight into the thought processes involved, which make his science/art hybrid far more palatable. Not only that, but some of these tracks have actual melodies, which are totally welcome among the tones and chirrups and twinkles and groans. Some of the bases for the tracks are totally wacky and certainly give a new perspective on what you're hearing. 'Sneinton Elements', for example, kind of sounds like a field recording of a train station in the middle of the night being overlaid with ethereal drones, maybe, but investigate the liner notes and you'll discover that it's actually, "Sonification of weather data. Using a LogIT SL datalogger, temperature, light level and relative humidity were recorded every 2 minutes over 24 hours (720 samples for each parameter) from 00:00 on Thursday 23rd July, 2010 in Sneinton, Nottingham, UK. This data is used to modulate the granular synthesis of a sample as follows: Light level controls grain amplitude (lighter = louder), temperature controls grain location within the sample (higher temp = later sample), relative humidity controls grain density (more humid = more grains). The 24-hour data is compressed down to 4 minutes of music. The result is that the sound starts quietly at midnight, gets louder as the sun rises (at around 4:30am/0':45" on the track), changes with the atmospheric conditions, settles to a calm evening, and finally fades as the sun sets (around 8.30pm/3':30"). Also contains ambient sounds recorded from the same location, and percussion created with filtered noise and sine waves." Puts the whole track in a new perspective. I notice one song is a short version of Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Part, and another later track samples low-level noise from an Arvo Part recording, so any if you're a fan of the great man this album could well be of interest. The more melodic moments do have a plaintiveness to them that brings to mind some of his work. It's an immersive and intelligent listen.
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