Artist Artificial Memory Trace/PBK
Album Title Transphere 1997-1999
Date of Release 2000
AMG Rating
Genre Avntg
Type avant garde

Time 77:03

   < original image of Imploded Stradivarius 
     from Guards Of Dreams II. Installation                
     in TAZ, Liege, Belgium _ 1995
 << cd_cover tortured image
     & design by Srg

AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Since the mid-'90s, Artificial Memory Trace (the working name of Slavek Kwi) has released CD after CD of fascinating electro-acoustic music. Transphere 1997-1999 is the result of a collaboration with American noise artist PBK. The album is structured in three TransPhases presented in chronological order. Both artists' sonic universes integrate pretty well. PBK's approach is more tone-based (drones, sustained noise), while AMT works with sound events, situational recordings, and extensive transformations. The way the two collaborated is not clearly specified, but each artist provided at least basic material for each piece. Obvious structure, repetition, and rhythm are three elements missing (but not missed!) on this CD; the music takes a musique concrète approach of "cinema for the ear," with multiple plots interlocking into an ever-changing story. The best example of this is "TransPhase 1: Mioru." The last piece, "TransPhase 3: Mus-eq" is a recording of a workshop with autistic children listening to music by PBK. It brings a strange (and maybe unnecessary) conclusion to the project. Better appreciated when listened to with headphones, Transphere 1997-1999 provides an enjoyable aural experience to the audio art fan. Recommended. -

François Couture

1. Transphase 1: (PBK) - 13:32
2. Transphase 1: Transition Zone - 0:19
3. Transphase 1: Mioru (Artificial Memory Trace) - 16:54
4. Transphase 2: Untitled (PBK) - 17:36
5. Transphase 2: Fragmenthol I (Artificial Memory Trace) - 2:33
6. Transphase 2: Retouch (Artificial Memory Trace) - 7:19
7. Transphase 2: Contextura I-III (Artificial Memory Trace) - 8:54
8. Transphase 2: Fragmenthol II (Artificial Memory Trace) - 2:59
9. Transphase 3: Mus-Eq (Artificial Memory Trace/PBK) - 6:23


erewhon CDWhON006

Transphere 1997_1999
erewhon CDWhON002

Out of Belgium comes a very attractive new label. These are the second and third releases (the first was a compilation which I haven't seen), and they are beautiful objects: the disks are housed in heavy, high-quality matt (almost waxy) sleeves, covered in tasty and subdued designs by sRg, the disk in one pocket and room for a booklet in the other: a joy to (be)hold.

Mnortham is a soundsculptor who has been releasing cassettes, vinyl and some cds of his work - most in collaborations - and whose name seems to be cropping up more widely. Recent solo works include his 'breathing towers' cdep on Dorobo (see &etc v3.5) and there was a field-recorded piece on the lowercase compilation (&etc v2.7). His CV includes many sound and performance installations since 1991, and he is also a visual artist: the covers for both ':coyot:' and 'breathing towers' include his photographs (as does his site on radiantslab) and they are mysterious and evocative.
This disk is based around one of his installations - a set of aeolian harps over an old gunpowder bunker on an island off Finland. These fed down through contact mikes to a studio chamber in the bunker. During the weekend festival mnortham adjusted the sounds and the wires, recording the harps and also some local sites and animals, and a year later 'composed' them into this piece.
Emerging gradually out of the silence 'Observations of wind at molecular states of evolution' harmonically growls at us - a constant granular drone of the long wires in strong winds with hints of over and under tones and subterranean variations - singing tones and light touches. An organ playing a single note in a subway/underground tunnel, on a geological scale a slow-melody flows, as all the while the notes are shifting, the shape of the sound evolving. And there are active points, where the wires sing together, and movement through louder, fuller passages into more restrained (less windy?) almost silent periods, before growing again to its end. 'Effects of atmospheric pressure on air-born particles of solids and liquids' (aka the second track) introduces a percussive element tapping behind the droning wire - probably rain where the growling in the first was the wind. The resonant wires are more prominent, giving the piece a subtle restraint. At times sounding like a sustained piano note, the overall mood is gentle, and leads to a wonderful long fade. Here is a good a point as any to note that earphone listening gives access to some of the smaller gestures and components in the music, which can get lost in a room and speakers. The final piece has perhaps the most complex layering of string-drones as its focus. As you listen to them in 'The copulation and subsequent conception of vacuums between wires and winds' voices seem to emerge from the interaction of the notes. Again the work ebbs and flows with some quite intense periods and others which are more restrained and simpler. The difference in mood between the three parts of ':coyot:' underlines mnortham's skill in selecting which moments to work on. Also, while the booklet suggests that some of his field recordings on the island were incorporated, they have become so integral that I couldn't distinguish them. The form that mnortham works in imposes tight constraints on the resulting music: the wires themselves have limited range though atmospheric affects expand the sound palette. And yet these pieces are compelling and mesmeric - the small changes in texture or timbre, the development over time (whether real time or due to seamless editing) are earcatching and maintain your interest. My experience of this form of soundscape places Alan Lamb high on the scale, and this recording is up there with him. (There is also a booklet containing a typically obtuse acheological linguistic essay by G. Toniutti - see &etc v1.8).

And while mnortham is hard to describe, Artificial Memory Trace and PBK is even worse. Here we have two artists who work with sculpting sounds. I have had more exposure to AMT (see &etc v1.5, 1.10 & 1.12) whose work is rapidly moving and changing electroacoustic, while PBK is (I think) more into electronic drones and tones (on the basis of this: I must admit to being a little shy of PBK exposure). Here they are working with each others material (its a 'versus' album), adding their own touches and sounds.
There are three parts to the disk. The first, TransPhase 1 sees two long tracks 'PBK (vs AMT)' and 'AMT (vs PBK)' separated by a short 'transition zone'. I am assuming on the basis of the sounds and some later track names that the part in brackets is the originating source. The first track is quite gentle and subdued - throughout there are some soft electronic drones and tones, with occasional flashes of activity: crackling and rumbling, machines whirring, bent notes, scratching mikes, electronic winds. These grow to transient climaxes before moving on, building to a dense accumulation at the latter part of the track, condensing around a squeaking noise like a gate. 17 seconds of breaking glass and a whirring wind (the transition zone) before we enter AMT (vs PBK). This takes the transition sounds and builds from them - more clicking and rumbling accompanying the wind, lots of squeaky radio sounds, low throbs, sqirrling space noises, high ticks. There is a lot of movement and activity shifting across the sound spectrum, building moments then moving on. The sounds selected are subtle and seductive, and include the human voice singing, breathing. Again, there is a transition between periods of intense activity and almost stasis: around halfway after some dense electronoises, the content drops to an almost silent dripping beat, gentle patterns overlaid, before rebuilding: starting with distant phasers and geiger counters, joined by many other sounds, including a huge flock of starlings. Another wild noisey climax leads to a gentle subdued fade.
In TransPhase 2 PBK (vs AMT) leads off with a single long track matched by 4 shorter ones going the other way. He provides a swirling electronic (sometimes feedback) soundscape over which clicks and ticks, processed voices, echoing blurts build and sweep. It is very dramatic and exciting, somewhat more forceful than TransPhase 1. The second half is more restrained, with the backdrop removed and a focus on echo&processed voices - indeed there is a sort-of-dub feel to a lot of the activity occuring - before metallic tones and ticking build, ebbing and flowing to a pulsing end. 'Fragmenthol I.' [AMT (vs PBK)] sees a percussive outing with a deep beat, chitters and a fast knocking which shifts around the soundspace. These elements are joined by a fast tick before it breaks down to a slower beat and electronoises in the central part before redeveloping with the occasional clatter. There are two parts to 'Retouch': the first half is very restrained with a gentle clatter and drone joined by fleeting sounds - organ pulses, crackling, wooshes, bubbling - to be replaced by a dense complex of almost random accumulations of similar noises. The final two pieces in this section - 'Contextura I._III.' and 'Fragmenthol II.' - are very minimalist. The first works around long rising and falling tones, with low banging, pulsing, deep notes and a crackling percussive texture, while the second is quite a glitchy microwave piece building to a climax and retreating.

And finally, the single 'Mus-eq (PBK/AMT)' of TransPhase 3 - perhaps one of the more unusual pieces I have come across: it is a recording made by AMT of 'children with learning disability listening to PBK, manipulating paper and plast.' Which is exactly what it is - a distant PBK electronica with rustling noises over the top, little local noises, and then a child crying and another vocalising. Quite bizarre, but strangely it works.
This is an album which, like other AMT material, revels in its diversity, and which the descriptions above should be seen as only touching on. The sounds are always interesting, never merely annoying (and if they are only briefly and in context), and wildly diverting - the range of moods, methods, sounds and sensations is absorbing.
Both these Erewhon releases are highly recommended if you find the descriptions at all intriguing.