The Muta Variations consist of a number of short concentrated compositions that have been in development since 2006. The original sound sources being predominately included and rejected material from Cphon, Hylic and Construction5-7.
Those original sound files and their now unrecognisable reworking's have been subject to many processes of granular disfiguring, using Max MSP, Supercollider and Audio Mulch. Selected sections of this material are now being released.
I’ve written about John Wall‘s music on several occasions, focusing on it in the lengthyDialogue we recorded together last year. On that occasion Wall often referred to, and played examples from, a large library of small-scale compositions that he expressed some frustration at wanting to get out into the world. It’s exciting to report that that time has finally come, and Wall has released three digital EPs, 2005–14, SC and Muta Variations, comprising around an hour-and-a-half of material. And what material! Taken together, they vividly illustrate Wall’s complex and ostensibly paradoxical painstakingly-constructed sense of improvisatory freedom. Put another way, each tiny gesture is simultaneously arbitrary yet stamped with authority. As in all of Wall’s work, there’s a tendency to occupy extremes of register with generally restrained dynamics, establishing another Wall paradox, raw electronics delicately rendered into the most intimate filigree. This makes subsequent moments of surge and rupture (and they are many) all the more powerful, but never catastrophic: a sense of inner balance and control is never, ever lost (some might find this limits the music’s dramatic potential, but to my mind it works, a bit like watching a play without a set). It’s largely nonsensical to speak of details, as they’re forever in a quicksilver state of flux, which over time makes one think of Webern. Spending time with these EPs, two minutes gradually starts to feel like a very long period of time, and the fact that these miniature pieces are continuing to do something entirely new even in their last few seconds eventually seems entirely appropriate. Wall’s very particular aesthetic—random yet meticulous—reinvents pitch and pulse from scratch, as well as redefining what constitutes structure and syntax, from the microscopic scale of each tiny, transient gesture expanding to the level of a phrase, a sequence, a track, an EP. Like a raw data stream from an alien world, Wall’s electronics do what seems unimaginable in contemporary electronic music, tapping into something genuinely new. If you’re going to pick just one, go with Muta Variations, but my recommendation is to set aside 90 minutes to engage with all three, and find your perceptions and preconceptions of what sound is and can be irrevocably transformed.
review by Simon Cummings
released May 28, 2016
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