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Every Contact Leaves A Trace label feature revisited (Henry Collins / Helen White / Marvin Tate, Joseph Clayton Mills)

So. I did some reviews of the first batch of Every Contact Leaves A Trace releases, which were fine indeed. And here we are, just two short years on, in a world that looks slightly different. And yet, on plod sound-art micro-labels, furrowing obstinate fields. I say that in a fashion that might sound derisory, but if I know one thing about ECLAT label-head Seth Cooke, it’s that he’s bloody-minded.

And so the releases, all of which may or may not be high-minded and singular visions of “the concept”, but it’s difficult to tell. Arguably the virtue of the label over its hitherto nine releases (of which I’ve covered seven for Freq) is that it toes, or tows, the line between evocative sound and bloody-minded concepts. Viz:

Henry CollinsThe Masters

Henry Collins - The Masters

Henry Collins is something of a prodigy in amazing ideas. Him and Robin “Old Robbie” Foster have this thing called “rummaging”, where they get boxes of rubbish and rummage about in them for a while. I could mint a whole world of wind about how amazing and singular a concept this is, but they’d both probably scotch it as precocious; but it’ll suffice to say it’s an amazing journey through textures. And Henry’s sex-face.

This release here is devoted to the “78th Masters Tournament, BBBc broadcast audio, speech redacted”. Like the previous ECLAT release Music Of Sound, this is an exercise in finding those astonishing sound worlds hidden slap-bang in the middle of a golf tournament. So there’s loads of lovely thwacks, plenty of bird sounds and a surprising amount of overhead aeroplanes.

The aeroplanes, weirdly, provide this part-melodic sense — because there’s a load of golf happening and commentary redacted, the pitch of an engine gets cut in half so you get the sudden pitch jumps. Just enough to be a bit like something tonal, but just erratic enough to be still clearly in the world of sound-art. There’s impressions of speed, where rapidly cut sections cede to less frantic bits, and I’d guess that Collins has been exhaustive with this — meaning that he’s likely painstakingly removed all dialogue, without particularly editing or cultivating it. A piece that’s marked by process revealing more to the golf than I’d ever realised.

As with the last batch of ECLAT releases, Collins’ is my favourite of the bunch, but that’s not to dismiss t’others. It’s that rare mix of the clarity and simplicity of “the idea”, as well as the fact that it’s something so preposterous, and also banal, that finds this enchanted world of pricey BBC microphones getting some gorgeous golf club thwack.

Helen WhiteSolar Wind Chime

Helen White - Solar Wind ChimeThe scant text for this says “Conceived and developed by Helen White in residence at the Pervasive Media Studio, Watershed, Bristol, with support from the the Institute of Physics”, which gives the impression that something smart’s going on. I could do some proper research, but it seems this work stems from an installation dealing with satellite data generating sound in the aforementioned Watershed in Bristol. A venue which, readers might like to note, had exorbitantly-priced burgers a good decade ago, long before it was the vogue.

The connection between the installation and the sound isn’t clear — there’s what sounds like wind chimes floating about in the mid ground, but the core of the work is something approximating drones. I say “approximating” because what drones tend to be is long, clear, round tones, whereas what we have here is closer to the sorts of microtonal clusters more common to spectralists (of the Tristan Murail sort). I can’t discern any melodic or harmonic pattern and the intervals are just tight enough that they never quite resolve; so a take a on “noise” in which the idea is less abject variegation across multiple registers and more intensely complex variation within a very limited tonality.

I’d be interested to know how much of this is happenstance, and how much is design within the parameters of the data, but in typical ECLAT form, there’s no detail on the CD — so I might as well be making up any old nonsense to explain it. But don’t let my inarticulacy fool you — this is a very particular and peculiar take on the manifestation of “noise”, particularly as it has this winding and inscrutable complexity to it.

Marvin Tate, Joseph Clayton Mills – The Process

Marvin Tate, Joseph Clayton Mills - The ProcessPossibly the strangest record of the bunch — or at least the one I found most inscrutable — I’d first assumed this record was some form of found-sound / musical accompaniment affair, but it seems that’s not quite nailing it. Tate appears to be a multi-faceted musician and Mills closer to the sound-art world, and the work seems to be a collaboration of mixing Tate’s source material with a variety of things. Those things could be composed (the presence of string players in the credits suggests as much), but there’s never a point I discerned where composition, per se, appears to take place. It’s almost touching on cut-up techniques but it’s not as arch or as sound-poetry as that; it keeps giving sense a bit of a tickle and then runs away at oblique angles.

I think it’s probably a great record, but I’ve not yet quite got my head around it. It’s almost more like a compendium of ideas than an album of one or more ideas, but there’s some very regular parts (songs from Tate) interlaced with a curious array of sound “things”. There’s parts where it almost feels like a louche throwing together of sound-bits, but then there’s narrative sections that confound that. Odd, in a beguiling way, and beguiling in an odd way.

So yeah. Every Contact Leaves A Trace’s definitely a label that’s worth keeping an eye on and there’s a wealth of ideas here. Support your local, or not-very-local, small press CD label in time for Christmas, innit?

-Kev Nickells-

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