The six untitled pieces were compiled from improvisations
recorded 2–3 July 2011 at the Utterpsalm studio.
Modular and pressure-sensitive synthesizer
Mastered by Jacques Beloeil
Originally released on the Entr'acte label in 2012
It’s been a while since we heard from the excellent John Wall, a UK composer who has been continually honing his very extreme approach to the art of digital composition. I was rivetted by his earlier work like Alterstill 1 which displayed his meticulous approach to layering and assembling samples, producing astonishing juxtapositions and creating “virtual bands” from highly unlikely pairings of selected records. He made most plunderphonics artistes, especially the over-rated John Oswald, look excessive and careless by comparison. Since then Wall embarked on a trajectory, a path of attenuation that was determined to pare down his already minimal approach, and the music became increasingly austere: shorter in duration, far fewer notes, much more abstracted, and even tougher for the human ear to endure. As he evolved this very fundamental take on the less-is-more philosophy, I sensed by the time of 2005’s Cphon that Wall was sacrificing some of his own human spontaneity on the altar of digital perfection, much as I enjoyed the music. That particular trend appears to be reversing itself on this new record 139 (ENTR’ACTE 139) for Entr’Acte. This may be partially because another human is involved; it is a collaboration with Mark Durgan, the English noisemeister whose 2005 Hypertension Classics Vol. 2 (4 CDs of blistering, churning hell released under his Putrefier alias) still causes murmurs of painful remembrance among the few whose ears it has scarred. On these six untitled pieces, Durgan has been issued with a modular synth, but any predilection he may have had for creating a blistering screech assault has been quashed by the iron control of Wall. Or has it? Minimal as this music may be, the compacted strength of a thousand noise firebrands still ticks away at its mechanical heart. Wall may be doing everything in his power to bleed away the rich colours from each inhuman tone, but as many seated behind the mixing desk have learned, you can’t keep a maverick down for long. Which brings us to the additional credit Wall has taken on the record, that of “severe editing”. One can imagine what this methodology involves, not only a ruthless and focussed effort of selection in order to reduce hours of music to a single powerful blip of concentrated juiceiness, but also carrying out the activity with a stern countenance and furrowed brow, thereby presenting the very image of severity. I’m all for it. If I had my way John Wall would be appointed as a sort of musical censor in this country, cutting down overlong contemporary electronica albums to a fraction of their current length. In fact, why stop there? If he could encode his method into a computer script in some way, it could come bundled with each new installation of Audacity or Max-MSP, and automatically curtail the music at source. That would teach a few people a thing or two! At slightly over 33 minutes in length, this is a record which offers you ten times as much vitamin-enriched protein as any given slice of venison…realised at Wall’s UtterPsalm studios, and it’s also nice to see he’s able to incorporate his letterpress skills (title embossed in blind) into the design of the package, which meets the generic Entr’acte packaging conventions halfway.
review by Ed Pinsent 29 March 2012.
released April 1, 2012