Vault :

The Wire issue 237 Nov. 2003
Review by Julian Cowley
On the Belaska duo’s Vault, Wastell’s ‘amplified textures’ encounter Mattin’s computer feedback in a scenario where the most intransigent acoustic identity might be comprehensively stripped away or reconfigured. In practice, the two sound artist preserve the activated ambience of a bank vault, at once cavernous and enclosed, boomingly expansive and claustrophobic, empty and filled with deep, physically affecting subterranean rumbles. The bass frequencies on this recording register palpably in the body, not just the ear. Even at relatively low volume, they can be felt in the vibration of domestic walls and floor. Upper register sounds are beamed in now and again, like laser glints cutting into profound gloom. The CD booklet depicts locks and a steel cell. Belaska’s abstraction has considerable figurative force. The impervious, unyielding vault typifies a finite space, and the improvisation within suggest endless reverberation.


number 396
week 45

It may be no surprise that if I put in a new CD by Mattin, I turn the
volume down a bit. From what I heard from this guy, it's usually
quite loud. However, here, a duet with Mark Wastell on 'amplified
textures' and Mattin on computer feedback, things aren't as loud as
expected. Throughout these four tracks, there is a dark percussive
rumble, like banging against semi-hollow boxes and the computer
picking up on the sound, maybe do some slight altering on the
material, so that it's almost feedback, but it's not y'r over the top
noise blast. A highly amplified sound in which feedback could play a
big role, but it doesn't - it's a very controlled atmosphere here.
This works best in the second piece, which is the most controlled one
and also the most dense piece. The atmospheres inhabited here aren't
very pleasent ones, there is a very creepy undercurrent in these
recordings. Certainly a most strange and alienating piece of music.



Absurd (Greece)

belasca’s “vault” is another fave thing. the collaborative project of mattin (computer feedback) & mark wastell (amplified textures) whose interaction stands probably to some of the most delicate obscurities I came across the last few months. ok ok ok, probably some might think that am overacting, but speaking of mattin & mark gotta admit that their approach is something that works perfect w/ my senses & subconscious. vault’s a cd where obscurity gets a different meaning sounds can come out of nowhere or can given the feeling of an amplified thing that stands in the middle of nowhere. also since mark is been into the amplified textures things I believe he creates atmospheres of such subsonic density or sparseness that give me the feeling as if an infant is trying to create something with plaster or something like that. the same am given at times from mattin at least (as holds for mark too) for some of his releases.  no matter how silly it might sound. now thanks to their intimacy both mattin & mark work as infants in my humble opinion over here however not to create a drawing of a certain improv symmetry but instead a canvas of an unnamable abstract improv darkness as was spawn out of their subconscious. it’s up to you if you’ll enter the vault or not…


Dusted Magazine (by Jonathon Dale)

Vault (wmo/r)
Two people sitting in a room. As with most recordings, one imagines musicians
huddled around the recording apparatus of a small home recording set-up, or
sectioned off in a studio, or gathered in front of the computer screen, or
working the resonance of the room as a hidden member. The space affects the
outcome in as many intangible ways as it does imprint some kind of measurable
signature sound on the recording. (The bloodless studio document, or the timely
capture of an improvisation.)
What happens when that room has been chosen for its peculiarities, its
intrinsic and extrinsic meanings, both musical and meta-musical? Belaska, the
duo of improviser Mark Wastell and laptop performer Mattin, happened upon a
disused vault - a “safety-box”, as Mattin describes it in the liner notes - in
London. A bank vault emptied of its ‘belongings’ and of its purpose, being
utilised for other purposes. Vaults have other meanings too - they can be
burial chambers; they can be simple everyday rooms with arched ceiling and
walls. The body consists of vaults (any arched part of the anatomy qualifies.)
So, not just a bank vault then.
The liner notes from Mattin and Zeigam Azizov, and Matthew Hyland, work well at
explaining the intent of the piece, the theoretical resonance of recording in a
disused bank vault. I wonder at whether the artists were interested in
reanimating the space, in ‘correcting’ its use (cue long discourse about free
improvisation and economic imperatives). Mattin and Azizov talk of secrecy, of
marginality, of the presence of (and within) absence, and of the ‘fragility’ of
the space, exposed by its acoustic resonance. The acoustic properties of the
vault cast these improvisations in a deep wall of dark reverb, with
Wastell’s ‘amplified textures’ particularly heavy and foreboding. This music
sounds like an arcane document, a hidden form of knowledge, so the secrecy
reference is well placed. Can sound created in a disused bank vault be
considered ‘arcane’? Perhaps not, but there’s certainly a ‘hidden form of
knowledge’ - hidden from everyday life - about lock-boxes, vaults, deep
recesses, secret storerooms. And there’s an intrigue to hidden knowledge that
this recording plays upon, offering glimpses of itself to the listener, but
never fully revealing its hand.
The subterranean inference of the bank vault (as shrouded, as storage, as
inaccessible to the majority) parallels the music detailed on Vault. Wastell
and Mattin immediately grasp both the sonic contours of the space and the
musical resonances of the work, and exploit every angle.


Paris Transatlantic (Paris)

 Belaska is a duo also featuring Wastell and Spanish (he'd probably prefer Basque) sound artist Mattin on computer feedback, and as its title suggests, Vault was recorded in a disused safety deposit box in the City of London. Complete with a twenty-page booklet containing some elegant photographs of the performing space and a couple of texts (which just manage to avoid being mildly pretentious), the disc also consists of four tracks ranging in duration from 9'00" to 14'46". Site-specific improv is an exciting area of new music, but the majority of releases of the genre (if one can call it such) have so far concentrated on outdoor spaces - the excellent series of sound postcards on the Ouïe Dire label, the work of Afflux (Jean-Luc Guionnet, Eric La Casa and Eric Cordier). Vault is a claustrophobic and at times scary experience - who hasn't at some stage had a nightmare of being unable to escape from a confined space? - Mattin's at times vicious buzzes and feedback squeals and Wastell's disturbing scrapes and rumbles are literally captured (shot out to Tim Goldie for his excellent recording), and the vault itself becomes an all-too-real participant in the adventure. —DW

Bananafish (San Francisco) n.18 Sept. 2004

Goldfish probably hear something akin to Belaska's Vault CD (w.m.o/r) every time us slams our knuckles on their aquarium glass. A tantalizing, almost licentious document of Mark Wastell's and Mattin's anti-natural congress with a decaying cube or armor, Vault is not field recording pitty fuck. Belaska's fetishism craves stretch mark subwoof, and their London EC2 box, as much as treasure haven as ever, delivers boom containment. Profoundly obese hoot lingers in tourniquets, receding incrementally toward vanishing points between amplified claws picking at warts and herpes sores. The trainyard glides through the freeform, unstated rhythms of triumphs fantasized by excited macaques, which is most of the time; Rotten Piece rewards surrender with Stonehenge-worthy rites inside rings of synchronous digeridoo-and-bagpipe smear (a neat trick for a solo stick-cellist).

Touching Extremes (Italy)

reviewed by Massimo Ricci. June 2004

BELASKA - Vault (w.m.o/r)
Working at the junction of almost pulmonary exhalations of grainy textures with barely perceptible human intervention on contrasting decolorizations of feedback and gloomy silence, Belaska (Mark Wastell and Mattin) are two shelterless walkers in the middle of a fogbound course. Their method privileges those huge low vibrations that somehow remind of thunderstorms caught when you're closed into a room - something you "experience" rather than "hear". Then again, the duo travels all around the membranes without really uncovering objects or bodies; squatting amidst uncharted sound emissions, always looking for the most important balance - that between tension building and breathing room for the ears - Wastell and Mattin spear commonly known electroacoustic codes and regulations, once again grabbling under unbroken sonic soil to come back with a good measure of truth

E M P T Y no audience newsletter of the no audience underground (France)

Belaska 'vault'-w.m.o./r-CD in a PVC envelope
/I hear many-a-thing about industrial music and how the genre died as such in the mid eighties just around the era rock bands started pretending they were doing industrial music (Ministry, anyone?) I have no precise idea whether industrial is or isn't still alive but what strikes me as true among the what's said about it is industrial is intellectual music. By intellectual I by no means am saying it's elitist or it should be (p)reserved for/to a chosen few, simply that the concepts behind it are as important as the actual music, no-music or anti-music industrial projects make or used to. This ambient-percussive-low-end piece of a disc was recorded inside a safety-box inside the bowels of an abandonned bank building -maybe 'the heart of' would've been more elegant, but definetely bowels is more accurate- using computer feedback and amplified textures (sic) and abusing the natural reverb and resonance of the ancient metallic money chamber. Now tell me again industrial isn't intellectual.

Jazz Word & One Final Note

First Meeting
Trente Oiseaux
Mark Wastell/Mattin

By Ken Waxman
December 13, 2004

Going beyond expected instrumental tone and textures -- and even instruments themselves -- is the focus of many younger improvisers, and these two CDs show just how far this concept can be stretched.

Connecting these two is the inventions of London’s Mark Wastell, who usually makes his mark as a cellist, but on First Meeting plays Nepalese prayer bowls, gong and amplified textures, and on Vault just the last. His partners on the former are fellow Brit Graham Halliwell on alto saxophone and feedback and German Bernhard Günter on electric cellotar, while the latter is a duo with Barcelona-based Mattin on computer feedback.

Wastell who often plays in a trio with harpist Rhodri Davies and bassist Simon H. Fell, and Halliwell, who is in another band with Fell, move from microtonalism to out-and-out reductionism here. Two of the tracks are labelled [plus] and two [minus], and these designations are very important. [Minus] tracks are purely improvised, while the [plus] tracks build on pre-recorded tapes of electronic sounds put together by Günter, an electroacoustic composer, who also plays the unique electric cellotar, a bowed, five-string baritone guitar.

Only the ultra discerning may be able to note the differences in these highly abstract situations. Wastell’s metal bowl resonation and the wiggling, whistling tones from Halliwell’s feedback-modulated saxophone connect with thumps and bumps in the [minus] section to produce hypnotic themes.

Lengthier by far, the [plus] tracks introduce more sounds to interrupt quiet, contemplative textures and long periods of silence. Sometimes you hear mechanized clicks and buzzes followed by intermittent chirrups and breaths that seem to come from within Halliwell’s mouthpiece. Or dense, unyielding timbres give way to hissing static electricity, crossed wire interference and squeaking reverb from a ring modulator. At points, the output is so faint that you may question its existence, elsewhere it’s loud enough to producing pulsating rattles. You can hear errant, split-second reed vibrato and paltry tongue slaps swallowed by ascending sine wave loops. Pinched single tone intersect with electronic spicatto and gong pealing, yet nearly all of the really abrasive sounds are buffered by utter stillness and echoing tones.

On the second CD, the aural situation that arises between Wastell and Mattin is even more transcendent. If optics are to be believed, it was also recorded within the premises of a former bank vault. Mattin, who has worked with some of the prime theoreticians of reductionism such as trombonist Radu Malfatti and guitarist Taku Sugimoto, describes the interaction between the central and the peripheral on the four tracks here as having an intermezzo-like resonance.

Well perhaps, but the overriding resemblance is more a recorded and manipulated thunderstorm. Throughout, rumbling, atmospheric percussive tones meet up with shuddering sine waves -- not to mention what resembles the aural replication of floor sweeping. Although the screeching, undulating reverb that arises from crossed-wire interference isn’t that common, the dense buzzing output of computer sequences is frequently interrupted by unconnected hisses and scrapes.

One track features what you’d hear if a conveyer belt is suddenly plugged into a wall socket -- and the resulting rumbles and drags from items moving on it. Loops are intercut with percussive bumps and a single crack that could be that of wooden pool cue hitting a ball. Separated by silences are dissolving hisses that could result from radio wave interference as well as more substantial textures that suggest rough sandpaper dragged across a resistant metallic surface. Melodies and notes shouldn’t be expected, but at intervals, spray can-like airy whooshes and assembly line loops take on certain rhythmic contours.

Definitely not for everyone -- especially those whose idea of noise and music have definite parameters -- these CDs aren’t designed for an evening of lazy, easy listening. Instead, they propose and showcase inventive ways musicians are expanding the concepts of sound collection and dissemination.

auf abwegen # 34 (Cologne)
Auch wenn beim Duo Belaska fur die Beteiligten Mark Wastell und Mattin nur die Angaben  '' amplified textures'' und ''computer feedback'' vermerkt sind, klingt Vault doch wie die Feldaufnahme von Randgierbahnhof Koln- Deutz. Es rumpelt und Knirshcht in Basslagen, hallige Metallgerausche streifen den Horizont. Fast schon industrielle Asthetik, Baby.


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