Tuesday, August 5
Wiring My Ear To The Ground
Lift 0 / Ancient Rain
Ground/ From the corner of the room 1
Hidden Note / From the corner of the room 2 / Padi
From the corner of the room 3
Lowest Ground 3
8 X cdR
Price: 50euros + shipping
Photo and words: Richard Pinnell
Sometimes its really nice to listen to something without any expectations, just to see what happens. Listening to a piece of music that I don’t know much about in advance can often be a hit or miss experience. When what you are about to listen to is eight discs long however the prospect of potantial failure becomes slightly more concerning.
Anyway tonight I listened to the first disc of an eight CDr set by Malaysian electronicist Goh Lee Kwang entitled Wiring my ear to the ground. I ordered these on a whim, simply because sometimes that is the best way to discover new music, and I remember next to nothing about the releases apart from the vague memory that they might all have been recorded as part of one very long concert or installation, or something… Actually though, at this stage I quite like not knowing much about what I am hearing or from where it originated. Lee, if you read this, as I suspect you might, as I plan to listen to one of these on each of the next eight days can I ask you to not respond until a little later in the week? Let me try and work out what this is all about on my own first!
So the eight discs contain little information other than what seems to be an additional title for each one. The titles are as follows, in no particular order:
Lift 0 Ancient Rain
Ground/ From the corner of the room 1
Hidden Note / From the corner of the room 2 Padi
From the corner of the room 3
Lowest Ground 3
Hmm, so the titles aren’t going to help much! Tonight I listened to the first on that list, Lift 0 Ancient Rain. The disc contains six tracks, all of which are very similar, obviously all derived from the same set of sound sources. There may only be the one sound being used actually, some kind of lo-fi caustic groan that then seems to be digitally treated, looped and layered in a live setting to create huge , aggressive clouds of dark, thunder-like roaring. The tracks all last different lengths, so we can forget the possibility that they are recordings of the same sound from different points in a room. In fact, although on first hearing very similar each piece is different, some building to huge climaxes, others just content to roar along at one level. Oddly they all just seem to stop, as if randomly halted, in the case of a couple of the tracks at really odd points just as the music is reaching a potential peak.
Musically its quite interesting. Although I’m not sure I needed to hear nearly an hour of this, the way the pieces are constructed is nice, taking one small element and letting it flower out into a storm of expression. I must admit that I hope the other seven discs differ from this one or otherwise these blog posts are going to get a little boring. I suspect they will though. The sound itself is not a million miles away from that created by Tim Blechmann who I have mentioned here recently, and who has often worked with Goh Lee Kwang, though here the sound is rougher, less polished and each piece arrives at its pinnacle much quicker.
So far there is little to suggest that what I hear comes from a live concert, although the abrupt endings to each piece suggest they are taken from a longer recording that has been chopped up for presentation here. Perhaps the installation possibility may be closer to the mark but I can definitely hear a human presence in this music so I don’t think its a recording of something that was just left to run on its own. So, after one disc I am intrigued but nowhere nearer to figuring out what this is all about. Tune in next time for the next thrilling installment!
So to tonight’s installment from Wiring my ear to the ground. I listened to the disc called ph 1 on the train home from London tonight, and although I had to share the journey with a dozen or so drunken rugby fans I was able to listen from start to finish without interruption. This fifty minute long piece isn’t that far in tone from the second track on the disc I played Thursday night. The odd industrial sounding clanking and churning sounds are here again from the start of this disc. They sound like tiny percussive sounds amplified and then slowed down dramatically and then inserted here into clouds of hiss and scratchy contact-mic type noises. A couple of years back I saw Goh lee Kwang play a solo set in London, and from the little I remember he was using contact mics to capture the sound of small objects that were somehow set in motion tumbling about a laptop keyboard. Or something like that. Although that may not be how this piece was made there is a definite sense of small sounds captured here by rough recording methods and fed through a laptop patch of some kind to slow down the sound. This is all of course guesswork but I’m intrigued to hear how close I am when Lee chimes in here towards the end of this little experiment!
Anyway after tonight I am sure that these pieces are all just live performances released together as one big set. Maybe they were all recorded at one long concert that contained an assortment of different approaches to GLK’s music, I’m not sure, but I think I’m ruling out the installation idea now.
OK, very tired after a long but good evening.
On the way home then I listened to a second disc from the eight CDr set Wiring my ear to the ground by Goh Lee Kwang. I chose the disc titled Ground/ From the corner of the room 1. There are three tracks on this disc. The first of them is half an hour long, and if I’m honest I struggled to get through it tonight. The track consists pretty much exclusively of a groaning, dirty-sounding churn of really quite ugly sounds, perhaps related to those I listened to on the first disc last night, though my memory does not allow me to compare them precisely. I am a little less certain as to whether the sounds here are “played” as such in real time by GLK, or if I am hearing the end result of some sort of process, but the music kind of sounds like I think a washing machine might if running on a slow spin cycle underwater. I found this track quite different to anything I’ve heard in the past from this musician and actually quite different from much else at all, though I must admit I found the actual sounds involved really quite ugly. Maybe that is the point though.
The second track is quite different however. It begins with a momentary sound that suggests a tape is being started and then there follows another cloudy recording full of hiss and murky atmospherics, but this time a kind of mechanical, revolving sound plays throughout, with an occasional metallic drone drifting in and out in the background. I’m reminded here of some of the lo-fi mini disc recordings released by Jeph Jerman a few years back, mysterious sounds possibly taken from everyday situations but made to sound alien through the manner in which they were captured. As the nine-minute piece progresses the clanking, mechanical sound begins to break out of its pattern and the roar of background noise takes over a little. I’m curious about this piece. Its not necessarily something I find particularly enjoyable to listen to, but it certainly makes me wonder about this set of CDs as a whole and how these pieces are meant to link together.
The final piece on this disc, weighing in at some twenty-one minutes betrays its construction more easily than the other two tracks. I think what I am hearing here is laptop improvisations using a small granular percussion sound looped and treated so that it drifts from a few tiny trickles of pattering sound through to a deluge of the same. There is no simple structure to the piece however, no slow build to a crescendo as such, and in several places the track falls into silence only to recover itself. This coming and going of the sound does sustain my interest somewhat, but overall I could have been just as happy with a track of half the length.
So an intriguing disc. I am no nearer to trying to understand how all of this fits together and whether I am hearing several excerpts from one long concert or not. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do less describing and a little more deciphering.
Well I have a rare second weekend off of work in a row starting tomorrow, and oh boy am I glad we’ve got there. This was a tough week. The snow that began as a mildly fun novelty has become a treacherous pain in the backside as it snowed gain overnight and into this morning before freezing solid from midday onwards. I set off for work today not really knowing if I would get there or not, and the walk to the station, which usually takes me about fifteen minutes took the best part of an hour today because the pavements were like an ice rink coated in a layer of thick slush. Tomorrow I am hoping to go into London for the concert I mentioned a couple of nights back, but this could be difficult. Patrick if you read this drop me a line to let me know that its still going ahead! Otherwise I’ll call you in the morning to check.
So day three of the run through of Goh Lee Kwang’s Wiring my ear to the ground brought me to the disc titled Lower Ground 3 tonight. This disc ruled out any idea that I might be hearing different recordings of the same concert/installation made from different parts of the room because it is completely different to what I have heard so far. Just the one track on the disc this time, a 53 minute long piece based around a high pitched digitally-created tone with underlying secondary buzzing sound floating underneath. For the first ten minutes the tone merely drifts in and out of different levels of intensity until it begins to break up a little, switching on and off and flicking between left and right channels, all the while leaving little silent gaps as the lower, deeper buzzing sound alters pitch slightly with each change. With fifteen minutes to go the piece suddenly opens up and the lower sounds burst through into overpowering tones that hang heavily in front of the high pitched one, obscuring it completely within a couple of minutes. Over the last few minutes everything scales down to one tone that stutters its way to the finish.
This piece is by far my favourite in the set so far, a study in slowly changing structure over an extended period of time. Although sonically quite different I am reminded of the music of Eliane Radigue, as the music alters quite dramatically over time but you barely notice the changes as they happen so gradually. The sounds used are more appealling to me as well, less of the dirty electronic grunge heard over the last couple of days and more of a cleaner, tonal sound in its place.
I promised to describe the music less tonight and instead try and figure out what I am hearing however. Well certainly this piece is a laptop work, probably improvised but certainly “played” and recorded live. Whether this is a piece taken from a live concert I’m really not sure. Certainly no audience or other external sound can be heard on any of the three discs so far, though being laptop music the recordings could well be made direct to the hard drive of the computer so outside sounds would not appear anyway. If indeed these are parts of one live performance as I originally suspected then they do not sound like they are connected and could only really be different performances made as part of one long sitting, with notable divisions between them. I don’t think I am hearing recordings of an installation either, even though the titles might hint in this direction. There does seem to be a human hand working directly on much of this music. the timings are not even and the patterns that the music seems to follow are not perfect.
If we were to rule out the concert or installation options then we would have to assume that these eight CDrs just contain a series of works made specifically for this set. This seems unlikely as the music, although quite different from track to track does feel related to one time and particularly one place for some strange reason, perhaps only because it all sounds quite unlike much else I’ve heard from Goh Lee Kwang and it all has that vaguely lo-fi feel to the recordings I’ve not heard in other works, as if affected by the room in which they are made. So basically I still have no idea but will keep listening to try and work it out.
Oh wow, as I sit and type this and listen to Goh lee Kwang’s Hidden Note / From the corner of the room 2 / Padi CDr I just opened my post today to find a very elaborate and expensively printed flyer for a series of concerts celebrating the work of Viennese composers around the turn of the twentieth century. Plenty of nice looking concerts listed here that I might try and get to, but one absolute must; a performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in London at the Royal Festival Hall. On a Sunday too, so I won’t be at work. Great news, looks like I will finally break my live symphony cherry. Just hope I stay awake…!
So I listened once to this Goh Lee Kwang disc on the way into work today, but it wasn’t the most attentive of listens, simply because I was walking through Oxford City centre for some of the time, and there’s plenty there to distract you. Listening again now, the overlong title actually refers to the three different tracks here, named Hidden Note, From the corner of the room 2 and Padi respectively. The first piece here, weighing in at half an hour in length may just be my favourite of the Wiring my ear to the ground pieces yet. Although a distant buzz and rumble is ever present throughout the piece, it stays way back in the mix, and the foreground is very quiet, with occasional digitally altered clanks and bangs appearing every so often. Listening here tonight via headphones this piece is probably the first from these discs that I could honestly say has a degree of beauty to it, and is actually a very pleasurable listen, rather than just an intriguing or interesting one. Outside here the wind whips against the windows and this sound blends nicely with the distant hum of the music and the odd, alien sounding intrusions thereupon.
The second, nineteen minute piece is very much the sequel to the From the corner of the room 1 track that I listened to a few days ago. Here though the mass of industrial whirring, clatter and booming throbs sound like you have been caught in the middle of some kind of nightmarish, mechanical slaughterhouse. The sounds constantly churn around you as you listen at quite a rate, all very murky and hard to identify, but with small elements jumping out every now and again to suggest a fraction of a scream, or a cog turning in a machine, or metal being scraped across the floor. None of these imagined descriptions probably match the original source of these sounds, but such is how it all feels, quite frightening, alien and highly original.
Padi, the final piece here is similar again, although it seems to have been put together from the sounds of a storm, as skies rumble and lightning continually cracks. In truth the sounds here almost definitely didn’t originate from such a source, but again their identity is blurred and flooded in reverb to the point that as a listener you find yourself relating them to your nearest close reference point. In this case a storm.
This most recent CD is easily the best of the five I’ve heard so far. Plenty to listen deep into and mull over here, and again the method of creation is a complete mystery to me. Either I’m hearing wildly treated samples and field recordings or computer generated sounds affected to the degree that they sound natural and fluid. Not knowing one way or the other after a good few listens makes this disc (and indeed the Wiring series altogether so far a thoroughly original and thought-provoking listen. More tomorrow.
Tonight’s Goh Lee Kwang disc (anyone bored of these yet?!) was the eight track long disc entitled Lift 1. Again, the significance of the title is lost on me. On the day that the Muzak Company PLC filed for bankruptcy in the USA I was kind of hoping these might be recordings made in a lift, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The first twelve minute long piece (no titles given for individual tracks here) is not very interesting at all really, just a series of small digital sounding jabbers of sound that drift in and out but do not leave any silences of any real length. I have no idea if this is laptop music played in the most traditional sense of that terminology, and for the first time here I wonder if this is just a sample fed through a repeating software patch of some kind because it doesn’t seem to have the obvious touch of a human hand on it like some of the the other laptop-based tracks on the eight discs.
The second track sounds like it was once made from field recordings of something mechanical (perhaps it is a lift recording after all?) but here it is processed and blurred to the point that what remains is a loud flood of sound. The track is brutally cut short, presumably with the flick of one laptop key, only for the sound to reappear at the start of track three, where it is slowed down and broken into its basic raw material, a looped percussive sound. This soon speeds up again into the same roar of noise we heard before, coming to a peak in intensity before coming back down over the rest of the seven minute track. The fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh track follow a similar tack, beginning with the same sample before blowing it up into a wall of blurred noise that if I am honest I just find somewhat grating to listen to for very long, but as each piece lasts nearly eight minutes in length endurance is needed. The final eighth piece is much shorter, and for just a few moments even as the same sound is used it appears to be a heartbeat we can hear, or at least the same sound we have been hearing seems to take that form. Perhaps his own heartbeat had been GLK’s source sample used all of the way through this disc, I’m not sure.
I didn’t like this CD much. of the six I’ve played so far this has been the least enjoyable and once you get past the first track also the least varied. Maybe I’m just tired tonight.
So tonight I’ve been listening to the seventh of the eight Wiring my ear to the ground CDs by Goh Lee Kwang. This one is named From the Corner of the Room 3. I was a bit worried that I might have got the discs muddled up yesterday as none of them have any print on the face of the CD itself, but listening here I certainly haven’t heard this piece before so I don’t think I have. The music here consists of one continuous fifty-two minute track that changes over its extended duration, but only very slightly and oh so very slowly. The piece would not have sounded out of place on the seminal Virgin records compilation that appeared in the early Nineties called Isolationism, being as it is a slow, somewhat gloomy dark ambient affair. If I heard just this piece alone, separate from the other discs in this set I think I would have less time for it than I do here. Taken in context alongside the other discs it becomes quite interesting however. How do these varied tracks fit together? What is the connection (if indeed there is one) between the music on the eight discs? What do the titles mean? Why is this track so different to the others?
In the end From the Corner of the Room 3 sounded quite nice lulling away in the background for the best part of an hour. It has a vaguely sinister sound that has a kind of gong-like drone feeling to it. As a simple loop can be easily heard throughout its obvious that the music was made by a computer though, perhaps with the digital treatments changing very gradually throughout.
Last disc in the set tomorrow (though not the last CD of GLK’s music I have sat here unplayed!) and I will attempt to try and make some sense of it all. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to though. We shall see.
For those that doubted my ability to keep this blog going on a daily basis, here’s my second post of the day
Tonight I have been listening to the eighth, and last disc in the set of CDrs named Wiring my ear to the ground released on a “to order” only basis by the Malaysian musician Goh Lee Kwang. First of all my apologies to Lee and to anyone else that may have been annoyed that I didn’t manage to keep to my one-disc-a-day-for-eight-days plan. As you may have noticed, I found some of these discs quite difficult to listen to late at night when tired. They are all different and require individual consideration, and yet all are similarly demanding in a way I find hard to place into words. All of the pieces tend to focus on small events that could easily be just fleeting fragments of other pieces of music, but here are placed under the microscope and given plenty of time and space to gradually develop, sometimes dramatically, but quite often by only a small degree.
There is a kind of disconnected, alien feel to the recordings as well. My thought that they may not have been live performances and instead recordings taken from some kind of installation work still bug me, even though in places it is clear that this is not the case. This afternoon’s final CD, entitled ph2 is a murky, gritty example of the greyness of these recordings. They are not as such recorded badly, there is no hiss or background noise but instead they have a certain atmosphere about them that is difficult to pin down. This disc today has an underwater feel to it, possibly the result of some kind of digital treatment rather than anything else, but all of this gives the listener a peculiar sense of separation from the music. Across all of the pieces on these eight discs I cannot definitely identify what it is I am listening to. Clearly a laptop is used often, and certain digital processes can be identified here and there, but I can’t say for sure if any of the pieces were as such played in real time or are the result of some kind of process set in motion.
These eight discs leave me feeling intrigued and somewhat perplexed. I just don’t know if they are all recordings made at one long concert. I don’t understand the meaning behind the titles and how the pieces link together (if at all). As the last disc played this evening I found it cold and unwelcoming simply because it defied me to approach it as I would any other music. The material across these eight CDs is really quite original and actually quite unlike the half a dozen or so other discs I have by Goh Lee Kwang or even the one concert performance of his that I have attended. I feel like I have been beaten in some way by this music, as if it has set out to keep me at arms length and has resisted every attempt to break through. I struggle to find a way to enjoy it, and yet the experience of working my way through these discs in search of a chink of light has been rewarding.
I’ve only just realised that FLAC samples from some of the tracks can be downloaded from hereÂ so anyone intrigued can go and listen for themselves. I am obviously very interested to hear more about these pieces, to hear what others might make of them from those samples, and in particular to hear what Goh Lee Kwang has to add himself. I know that he has been reading my words, probably with immense patience considering my clueless guesswork about the music. Lee if you would like to add anything in the comments here please do, or send me an email and I will paste it into this text. I would very much welcome and appreciate your thoughts.
其實我不想講黃明志，因為我不認識他，更沒有欠他錢，他也沒有欠我錢，不過現在我卻講他，不是因為他又上新聞。 首先聲明，除了當年那首《Negarakuku》，我沒有聽過其他黃的歌，也幾乎沒有留意黃的新聞或動向，不過我知道他很紅，in and out都會有人提起他。除了講中文的地方...
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