| JOHN DUNCAN & CARL MICHAEL VON HAUSSWOLFF : Our Telluric Conversation
23five008, Compact Disc & Book
published in 2006
$17.98, plus shipping
23five Incorporated proudly presents Our Telluric Conversation — the second collaborative album from John Duncan and Carl Michael von Hausswolff. This is an album which Duncan describes as having been galvanized by magnetism. In a semantic sleight of hand, Duncan and Hausswolff reveal magnetism through a duality of meanings. One on hand, they speak of the physical phenomenon of charged objects that exert an attraction or repulsion upon other objects; yet on the other, magnetism can be defined the psychological influence wielded by charismatic individuals. Our Telluric Conversation maps out the complexities that emerged through the collaborative pursuits of these venerated sound artists.
The tools that the two employed for Our Telluric Conversation are common to their respective catalogues of recordings, with Duncan bringing his shortwave, data streams, and uncanny use of the human voice while Hausswolff employed oscillators, sonar, and wire tapping microphones. The album opens with the mechanical rotation of modulated sonar, providing a hypnotic pulse which slowly submits to an obstinate surge of rumbling noise, that in turn collapses into focused white-noise turbulence and tone-bent SSB transmissions. All of this abruptly detours with a protracted spoken narrative from Hausswolff who whispers a Pynchonesque text about a maggot-infested individual who seeks to remedy his affliction by communing with cobras and geckoes. Afterwards, Duncan and Hausswolff entertain the seduction of the long-form drone constructions; however, their sublime minimalism is so brilliant in its beauty as to be piercingly acute through the purity of honed sinewaves. The final entry from their Conversation is the perfect marriage of the established Duncan and Hausswolff aesthetics, with a spare low-frequency hum deadening the sonic architecture before a static charge of crackled ether supplements the auditory smoldering.
Our Telluric Conversation stands as a bold, expressive piece of sound art, confident in its multiplicity of perspectives caught in a constant flux of attraction and repulsion. The recording comes with a 40 page booklet with an interview between Duncan and Hausswolff about their histories, ideas, and methodologies; furthermore, the packaging is completed by a curiously tactile O-card, which has been embossed with braille and covered with a rubbery coating.
For almost a quarter century, John Duncan has constructed a radical body of sonic provocation through noise, field recordings, installation, and perhaps most notably shortwave. His interests have long been grounded in the psychological implications of sound, and how it has the ability to bring ecstasy, hostility, empathy, abjection, etc. to the listener. Always questioning himself and the world around him, Duncan remains one of the most dynamic artists of the contemporary era.
Carl Michael von Hausswolff is a Swedish composer currently working in Stockholm. His work involves studies of electricity, frequency, intonation and even paranormal activities within the framework of a challenging conceptual ideology of sound. Hausswolff’s audiovisual installations have been shown at biennials in Istanbul and Johannesburg, and his music has been performed throughout Europe and North America. He is also co-monarch (with Leif Elggren) of the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland.
This exquisitely produced offering on the ever classy 23five label consists of a CD containing three extended tracks, "...Like a Lizard", "Entry (Enhanced)" and "Yet another (very) abridged and linear interpretation of the history of our planet as we know it" and a 40-page booklet containing a transcription of an extended conversation between Messrs Duncan and Hausswolf, with occasional prompts from Jim Haynes. In the domain of sound art, a description of the concepts behind the works is often more interesting to read than the works themselves are to listen to – perhaps the fact that one can admire something without necessarily enjoying it is what the artists are setting out to explore – but that doesn't apply here: this is some of the most satisfying and, dare I say it, musical work the two men have produced for some time. That said, the book doesn't provide any information about the works on the disc, not even the origins of the Burroughs-like story Hausswolf tells on track one of a man who travelled to Egypt to acquire sacred knowledge of cobra venom (plus a trip to Thailand to learn how to speak the language of the gecko..). Instead there's a wealth of detailed discussion of the pair's more celebrated projects, including Duncan's legendary Scare, TVC 1 and Radio Code, and Hausswolf's experiments with NATO-monitored pirate radio in Iceland and his The Will of Tupi-Tupi, the Rooster, and GK, the Dove (if you're a paid-up member of the RSPB, you'd better give this last one a wide berth). All in all, a fascinating and thought-provoking read and a damn good listen to boot. -- Dan Warburton
Number 528, Week 22
More bigshots working together, even when these two big shots don't appear in Vital Weekly that often. CM von Hauswolff just doesn't release that much I guess [actually, Hausswolff has been quite busy with releases on Lampo, Raster, Sub Rosa, etc.], and Duncan's work just never gets here. Am I rambling? You don't know these two bigshots of experimental music? That should not turn out to be a problem, since these release comes with an extensive, forty page booklet of a conversation between Duncan and Hauswolff, in which they explain their own history to eachother, their working methods and other ideas. I can imagine that this is not only a good introduction in case you don't know them, but perhaps also may contain news for those who already know them. I didn't hear the previous collaboration between Duncan & Hauswolff, Stun Shelter, but perhaps I should try and find out, because Our Telluric Conversation is in fact quite a fine release, albeit perhaps, also something we should expect from these two. In the final piece "Yet Another (Very) Abridged And Linear Interpretation Of The History Of Our Planet As We Know It," both of the artists own interests are well heard: Duncan's love of highly processed shortwave tracks and Hauswolff's ongoing investigation into the world electrical charges. Starting out quite soft and with a growing intensity this piece becomes an explosion of electricity. Somewhat of a trademark for both. The opening piece "... Like A Lizard" opens with a pulse (not a uncommon thing in the work of Hauswolff), with the addition of subtle noise layers that built a crescendo, which, after it's abrupt halt, moves over into a story told by Hauswolff, about a maggot invested man, which I surely don't understand. In the middle (needless to say that we are dealing here with long pieces) there is a highly subtle but energetic at the same time piece of drone music, via the use of a highly processed sine waves. As said, it's been a while since I last heard something both either of these composers, but upon hearing this again, I think it's time to spend a sunday afternoon playing some of their older works again. So far they haven't lost any of their power, and this new one still proofs their importance today. -- Frans de Waard