U02 | Luigi Turra & Christopher McFall | tactile.surface
format : CD ltd to 250 copies
release year : 2009
length : 42’00
status : still available
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[ante-scriptum/preface by Jim Haynes]
Christopher McFall resides in Kansas City. On this recording, he braces the work with a story of his travels through the western part of Kansas through the snow on a trip into Colorado. I know nothing specifically about McFall‘s journey other than what he brings to the table, but it immediately snaps to the foreground my own journey through the heartland of America many years ago. He mentions the confrontation with an absolute sky; and that’s certainly a prominent part of the landscape. Maybe, even the most defining part of the landscape; as there’s very little else to focus one’s attention. During my travels, I ended up stopping at a town for some gas. Okay, it was in Nebraska; and it’s hard to even call that locale a town. But anyway… Above me, the sky was empty and weighty at the same time, and no one seemed to be around even at 5:00 pm on nice, sunny day. The gas station had a couple of busted pumps, and the receiver on the pay phone was dangling off its hook (this was a time long ago, before the era of the cellphone). Dust coated the ill-kept streets; and seriously, there was a three-legged dog wandering aimlessly down one of those empty roads. After pumping the gas, a civil defense siren blared through the town. This was to be the sound that preceding the dropping of The Bomb; and I immediately thought, who the fuck would want to bomb this place. The siren’s reason was probably far more benign, merely a test for when a tornado might barrel down from the Rocky Mountains peaking off to the west in the horizon. Nevertheless, I didn’t much care to have an episode of my life so handily written by David Lynch; and thus, the episode stuck with me.
So when I listen to McFall‘s collaboration with Luigi Turra, I hear the sound of that sky. The same desolation that McFall speaks of resonates from my own experience. McFall‘s journey was winter one, and thus the wind becomes colder, more abrasive, and even those Lynchian allusions seem to harken from within. But this is not all that the two bring to the table. Textures abound within their composition, both expressed through digital treatments and in rough-hewn audio verité. These textures ooze out the aforementioned wind / sky recordings of omnipresence rumbles, through aggregated collages that point to shards of metal, ceramic, moss, and soil all getting crunched between four pair of grimy hands. The density and physicality of the McFall / Turra textures move this out of what undoubtedly must have been an exchange of digital files; and their album is all the better for it. I would like to believe that these two were rummaging around in the middle of Kansas in some agricultural cistern while the wind scrapes their microphones out of place, like a collaboration between Eamon Sprod and Marc Zeier that I would like to hear. I know the truth is probably far more mundane, but I still would like to believe it.
A word to the artists: Gentlemen, this is a fine album, and one you should be proud of. But surely, a better title could have been in order.
: info :
“tactile.surface” is the sound presentation of a virtual place, an imaginary environment born from the alchemy of recordings between two different but real places, far apart geographically, yet close in time and spirit.
On one side, are the sounds captured in the intimacy of my living room in the small city of Schio (North of Italy),
mainly those reflecting its silence, and also some caught from the windows in the early hours of morning,
enhanced with some discreet short recordings of shakuhachi flutes ;
On the other side, lies the open space of Kansas City urban context, and the sound/views absorbed during a long travel to Colorado by Christopher McFall.
The two different sound places have been blended into a new one, rich of memory and keeping intact the physical perception of the surfaces, and their tactile, material aspects. (Luigi Turra)
Almost 2 years ago, I travelled home to see my mother in Colorado. This was no simple journey as I had to drive for 12 hours from Kansas City into the western lands of Kansas & Colorado. Tactile.surface really takes me back to that particular journey, because I was listening to the tracks we were compiling for it as I drove the length of the journey.
Desolate : is the only word I can think of describing Western Kansas and its snow covered expanses.
there is to be found there the most abrasive wind patterns, a generalized sense of absence, and an undeniable confrontation with absolute sky (there’s only one topography here, and it’s completely flattened as the sky becomes your envelope).
battered snowlines will outfit our drudgery
we sweetened the deal to touch in cold January
where roads give way the elemental trajectory
sunlit eyes were seeding the alchemy
This work traverses many surfaces and covers so much terrain. Many of the parts were extracted from manipulated recordings that originated from treated audio tape. Many of the “broken” low-ended sounds that served as base primer for the piece came from that side of things. The more “crisp” overlay sounds are derived from Luigi‘s workings.
The experience of it all was much the equivalent of weaving a tapestry of surfaces which resulted in a composite abstract topography (Christopher McFall)
: reviews :
Christopher McFall is a Kansas City-based composer. He works with field recordings and analogue tape, physically treating these prior to their being processed on a computer. His method typically involves culling essences from his tapes seeking to fish out quasi-tonal drones from among his trawl, over which other elements, recognizable or otherwise, are smeared. Luigi Turra is a musique concrète composer and graphic designer whose main interest is in the aural balance between silence and tactile perception of sound. Tactile.Surface‘s sources were recorded in completely different settings : Turra‘s room in Schio, Italy and one of McFall‘s trips from Kansas to Colorado.
For the most part, the expert handling of bottomless echoes constitutes the essential matter of what is at times a headily sonorous brew. The only specific sonic note is the use of a shakuhachi among Turra‘s materials. Their combined aesthetic is one of stark isolationism, with a mix of familiar components bringing new timbral skin to the old ceremony. Sounds are heavily processed through extensive equalization, drawing out the lower end of the sound spectrum with occasional high pitches. Underlying hums are layered into a shifting dronal bed while the tactile comes from reverberant clangs and thumps skittering over the surface. these noisier occurrences are gratifyingly fairly confined, never dominating the soundfield, as the lower frequency treatments generate considerable listener engagement. Portions are powerfully suggestive, the sort of thrumming whispers – enriched by subtle vibrations and subliminal pulse – that characterize the best of this sphere’s magna opera. Sounds are sculpted to create a liminal suspension of chances prosodies. Various emergences ensue – occluded pulses, aleatory sounds as if sourced from church bells, slow dissolves into claustrophobic city noise, aperture into expansive interiors. Once you’re drawn in, total submersion into Turra & McFall‘s transmutation of their sources into a deep drowning pool of sound is inevitable.
The sources for this CD were taped by the artists in completely different settings: Turra’s room in the Italian city of Schio, near Vicenza, and one of McFall’s trips from Kansas to Colorado. The only specified detail is the presence of shakuhachi (a Japanese flute) amidst Turra’s sonic materials but, for the most part, the expert handling of bottomless echoes constitutes the essential matter of this absorbing ride. Tactile.Surface is, in a way, a mixture of familiar constituents and new perspectives on a well-trodden path. Let me just mention the lone thing I didn’t love straight away: repeated clattering and thudding events, processed or less – the “tactile” aspects of the music, supposedly – breaking the spell born from the sequence of murmured solitudes informing the piece. We’re happy that those noisier occurrences are pretty much confined, never prevailing in the overall acoustic balance, as the treatments in the lower regions of the frequency spectrum generate instead outstanding results. A large fraction of the album contains in fact tremendous suggestions, the kind of silently thrumming whisper – enriched by subtle vibrations and subliminal pulse – that characterizes this area’s legitimate masterpieces. Turra and McFall manage to separate themselves from the mass quite significantly with those awesome inspections of the inexplicable, and will hopefully privilege this underground power if further collaborations should follow.
Mystery Sea’s daughter label moves onto it’s second release with this collaboration between Italian Turra and American McFall. This is my first experience of Turra so I can’t really comment on where their individual aesthetics come in to play but their combined aesthetic, in almost complete opposition to the notion of collaboration, is one of stark isolationism. Sounds sourced on a cross state journey (by the latter) and within the confines of a static location (the formers living room) are moulded to create a hovering liminal period of timelessness. The piece could go on for hours or merely minutes, once you’re inside time loses much of it’s meaning and it’s easy to become submerged into Turra & McFall‘s transformation of their base recordings into a deeply pensive drift of sound that is utterly beautiful.
Wonderful Wooden Reasons
Interesting idea, well realized. Field recordings (quite processed) from two separate geographies, the small town of Schio in Northern Italy and the wide, flat plains between Kansas City and Colorado, interwoven into a sonic double exposure. Underlying hums, layered, form drone structures while echoing clangs and bumps skitter along the top. Pulses emerge, once sounding as though sourced from church bells, dissipate, get absorbed by city noise, large space interiors. There’s a bit of loss of focus about 2/3 of the way through but during the final few of its 42 minutes, it flattens out nicely, those rolling plains extending in all directions, featureless yet fascinating. Recommended for fans of that area on the border of field recordings and drones.
The second CD on the Unfathomless imprint is a collaborative work by
Christopher McFall, whose work we came across already a few times, and the, for me unknown, Luigi Turra. In this series the label is “trying to illustrate artists’ personal fascination for specific locations, either natural, human built, or fictitious, as well as other pregnant related environmental experiences impacting into memory and onto our sense.”
In this duo work we have the living room and windows of Turra, as recorded
in Schio in the North of Italy and McFall‘s recordings from Kansas,
through the western lands of Kansas up to Colorado (I have a feeling we’re
not in Kansas anymore). Turra also uses bits of shakuhachi flute here
and there. I have no idea how all of this was merged together by these two
men, but they did. And the results are surely quite nice. One piece, that
lasts about forty-two minutes and has quite a desolate feel to it : the empty
room, the window clapping, the vast open space of Kansas.
Yet this is not a work of total silence, as there is always something happening. Sounds are heavily processed through the use of extensive equalization, bringing out mainly the deeper end of the bass spectrum and occasionally high pitched tones.
Quite a nice work, I’d say, but the problem is that the fact that this is cut
as one track, which leads us to think this is meant to be a single composition,
but unfortunately it doesn’t work as one composition.
It bumps into various places (excuse le mot), which are then cross faded
into another part, and then another one. Why not make distinct endings
to a piece and then start another one, I thought ? Even without too many
changes in the actual piece, but just the mere change into various pieces,
with an occasional full stop here and there would have made the whole into
a much stronger work. Otherwise, I think this is a great work of microsound
and field recordings, all according to the big textbook of the genre.
Frans de Waard