RICHARD GARET: Areal
23five016, Compact Disc
published in 2012
$12.98, plus shipping
In working with sound, video, and installation, Richard Garet has made an artform of interference. In previous work, he's employed photosensors to control a particular audio signal through the erratic nature of a violently pulsing abstract film. He's flooded a performance space with fog to disperse multi-channel video work into an ephemeral yet sculptural mass, accompanied by an equally diffused sound design. And here on AreaI, Garet continues his ongoing research with electromagnetic disturbances through radio.
Garet treats the radio process of transmission and reception as a routing system for the audio signal, all the while deliberately agitating and distressing the nodes that direct the course of that signal. For example, an electrical motor might be situated near a radio's antenna disrupting its ability to properly receive a transmission that Garet is broadcasting from nearby. Through the controlled use of electro-acoustic techniques (some rough and volatile, some refined and delicate), he organizes the signal distortion, the crackling static, and the ever-present tendencies for feedback into swarms of chiming resonance, electrically sourced harmonics, tactile bricolage, and impressionist din. As much as Garet's process pushes the interaction of sound and electricity to the brink of self-immolation, Areal balances his crunched textures with extended passages of radiant blooms of blurry noise and drone, finding common ground between the glassine density from Rhys Chatham and the splintered excursions of Kevin Drumm.
For a work that stretches out for over 50 minutes, Areal feels small. It's all about details, about micro-phenomena. Specifically, it's about the electromagentic fields that hover around Richard Garet's work table. Using a set-up of "objects, exciters and extended techniques," Garet activates and then captures various hidden sounds near his working space. What he reveals is lively and evolving: masses of greyed static, pinging harmonics, mechanical grinding, hollowed-out drones, slippery pulses and more. It's like scanning radio stations somewhere in the Great Plains and finding not dead air, but a whole world of broadcasts in an unknown language. Except the source of these broadcasts is not in some vast ether. They are intimate, and hidden right next to you. The description is oblique, because so is the process. Where Garet sources a particular sound and how each affects and relates to the other is difficult to discern. We can look at his set-up, but I'm not sure it makes us any the wiser about what we hear. The image is mundane and technical. The idea is evocative and abstract: Garet not as performer but as a medium channeling unseen and unheard forces. This not to say that Garet is "hands off" in this process. On the contrary, he is very much present, except his role is more as a mixer than composer. He fades elements in and out, overlays, and jump-cuts. But in no way does he attempt to impose a narrative or insert preludes, climaxes and resolution. It feels like a performance, captures a certain vital immediacy. Any more heavy-handed attempt to shoehorn all the stray, wild electromagnetic action into some kind of structure would surely have made the result ponderous. While Garet's methods resemble a sort of serious-minded nexus of sound art and sonic research, it's the response he provokes that is more vital. As the blocks of subliminal, grey-scale sound slide past, I was continually struck by how ominous and alien they are, and how they are made more menacing by existing so locally. They are, literally, all around us — a constant, haunting presence. It made me realize that while Garet does produce a certain intellectual and technical curiosity (a "how does he do that?") with his concepts, he also gets at a more intuitive response, one comprising some very basic, instinctual feelings: fear and its attendant excitement. What Garet conjures are ghosts, living entities that shadow everything we do. It's this gut-level reaction and how it bypasses the "how" and "what" of where it comes from that lets Areal be much more than its concept. -- Matthew Wuethrich
Absolutely stunning drones on this one. Areal was originally an A/V installation (complete with fog machine), the audio portion of which has been transformed into this magnificent album length piece on 23five. Garet's work has been focused on electromagnetic fuckery, specifically with messing up radio signals, and this is a further exploration. It’s an exceptionally precise record with a hundred different sounds working through cycles of hissing & clicking. Hyper focus on the details is the only way to fully appreciate this when everything is as subtle and delicate as dust floating in a patch of sunlight. Areal‘s sounds are the breath of a sleeping city, a digital microcosm of hidden harmonies and static clatter, a barely visible vertical sheet of ice that’s slowly melting, simultaneously warmed & chilled, stretches of hushed minutiae, cut through with shrill tones and cracked wind. Not enough good things to say about this. And not surprised in the least, as both 23five and Richard Garet are always on top of the game.
A Closer Listen
Few artists ever attempt the single track, album length release, and fewer still manage to succeed. Richard Garet is the exception to the rule, as proven by last season's Decentering and this season's Areal. The key to Garet's success is sonic variety; this music unfolds chapter by chapter, instead of layer by layer. These particular noises came about as an experiment in transmission and reception. Component sections splay and arc: a speaker-to-speaker hiss, a static surge. Radio signals are muted, interrupted, blocked and thrown off course; distortions are flattened and teased. The result is sonic disruption, sanus interruptus. For those interested purely in sound and tone, Areal offers a buffet. Despite the distortion, the album retains a soothing characteristic. Hidden harmonies produce pieces that mimic chimes, organ and strings, even though these elements are absent. A particularly beautiful passage that begins in the thirteenth minute sounds like sleet falling on woodblocks, and is followed by the crackle of what could be hail or fire, but is simply a static witness dressed in downy tones. Bells are not bells, planes are not planes, and the whole subject of accurate listening rears its curious head. A few true sound sources do enter the mix, as Garet utilizes random objects as percussion and fires up an electrical motor; but for the most part, he serves as gatekeeper for the glut of sounds yearning to breathe free. A rusty wheel and passing shower in the 24th minute are the most obvious, but given the method of construction, even these are questionable. It's easier to marvel at the morass than it is to decipher the architecture, and it's nearly impossible to deconstruct what is already a deconstruction. On Areal, intrusion and interruption are no longer unpleasant terms, but a means to a more pleasing end. -- Richard Allen
Another strong effort from Garet, part of a long string of same, departing a bit in structural terms from prior work in that the piece has a number of breaks and shifts, even as the substance of the music will be recognizable to listeners aware of his music. The tonal haze prevalent in Garet's sound is there, but drops out every so often, leaving the aurally delicious crackling and rustling that it had been enveloping before. When the tonality returns, it has shifted, acquired some darkness and edge, distant, metallic moans having become discernible. These welcome dissonances proliferate as the piece continues, the tonality escaping any cloying factor. It concludes in a wash of almost insectile sounds, bleak and cold--nice. -- Brian Olewnick