Set Ensemble: Stopcock


Consumer Waste CD

An involving and varied outing from this Oxford-based collective that received some very perceptive reviews upon its release in the middle of 2015, many of which have informed my own thoughts as I’ve listened to it in the intervening months. I’ve slept on this a little bit, if I’m honest, and I think that any attempts at a full review would be somewhat churlish, if not downright plagiaristic. Ho-hum. So if it’s educated, insightful  commentary you want, head over to Joshua Kim’s extensive write up at Toneglow or cast your eyes over the collected reviews on the Consumer Waste site. Still, I feel like I need to add my wavering yodel to the chorus, so here are some impressionistic thought clusters that have been dancing in my head these last few days and weeks. All attempts at critical impartiality have been jettisoned. Enjoy this Gonzoid reporting in its most debased form.

But first, some perfunctory background: six scores, all text or instruction based, for the seven performers here: Patrick Farmer, Bruno Guastalla, Sarah Hughes, Dominic Lash, Samuel Rodgers , David Stent, Paul Whitty. Links to the scores are provided where available.

Sarah Hughes: Fire & Conifers

Noisier than the previous few Hughes pieces I’ve heard, with the overall feel of someone tickling the ivories in the workshop. Throughout, slow piano figures fall slowly and rise again on a bed of sustain. Somewhere, someone is sharpening something. What are they building in there? Every so often a clutched bass note surprises, somewhere between rockabilly slapback and a blow to the back of the head. A fight between peace and disquiet. A snow-covered forest seen through a factory window. Drifting out of linear time and then back in. The piano player continues, regardless of the racket. A metal bin dragged across a concrete floor. Tinkles and plunks.

Take a look at the score here.

Bruno Guastalla: Memoir de Cézanne

I don’t know much about Guastalla, but this is a beast. It heaves out, its rusting glower less of a drone and more of a corroded dreadnought wheeze. I like it. The insistent atonality, like a biker gang of pissed-off cellos, but probably made up of the usual stringed instruments plus electronics and all manner of other stuff, if the release notes are to be believed. A sound that teeters on the knife-edge between notes, or in-between notes, or no notes, or all of the notes. A big, aggressive sound. A monolithic creep, with motorised rattle and low-end oscillation, shuddering and juddering. Keep the 18-wheeler idling, forever. Under duress, straining, close to collapse.

Score here 

Patrick Farmer: This has already had a history (2b)

Is someone eating? The crunch of the teeth on the brittle surface of the apple. The munch of the chunks in the mandible. Take some time out from your busy life. Enjoy this carrot. You’re worth it. Eat up your fruit now darling or no pudding for you. Sonic attention to detail, divorced from the other senses, means we can wallow in the striated textures flowing into our ears. The disgust of a visual close-up (mouth, eating, yuk) is replaced by aural estrangement. It’s like we’re hearing the surface of the moon. That’s it, eat up everything, even the pips. Good boy. Well done. Now, back to work.

Have a hungry gaze here

Dominic Lash: 360 Sounds

Short, isn’t it? But packs a punch. A cascade of mewling, bleeping noises trips forth, as if your dishwasher and washing machine had completed their cycles while your fridge door hangs open. Ends as soon as it begins. Happy happy.

Paul Whitty: you have not been paying attention (again)

Electroacoustic scuffles, like a guest DJ spot by the Hideous Replica label. Low-level magneto-current bursts – possibly speaker cone mangling – are caressed by smooth, metallic resonances. After a while, those sounds seem to congeal into a fatty burble, the pops and crackles of grease on the hot plate. Sausage sarnies and bacon baps. Static drizzle held in suspension with liquidy guzzle. In the background, the rustles and clanks of a sentient vacuum cleaner locked in the cupboard. A chorus of pops and fizzles. Turn your microscope up.

Have a butchers at the score

Dominic Lash: For Six

Wonderfully detailed and exploratory. Constituent parts locking together like cogs in some rugged construction. The bass notes anchor things with impassive warmth, rarely deviating from their dogged path. Occasional bass grind. This is the composition in which the whole ensemble gels together best, perhaps because their parts are relatively prescribed: three pairs of two musicians, taking the low, high and electronic frequencies respectively. Nice contrasts, between the lower- and higher-end, but also from the switch between continuous sounds, irregular sounds and silence. A landscape. Darkened valleys and freezing mist cloud. Planes of overlapping sound. Sheep skulls and crow’s feathers. Outlines of a mysterious territory.

Take a look over here




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s