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The Watchful Ear

Friday 20th March. Pt. 1

By Richard Pinnell | March 20, 2009

Well it’s just about a quarter past seven in the morning as I start to write this post, from my iPhone on Oxford railway station. I have just got off of the first of three trains today on the way up to Scotland, this first one just being a short connecting journey from Didcot.

If the technology ( that I don’t understand that well but isn’t the iPhone great?!) has worked then you should see a photo just above this paragraph that I took a short while ago through the train window. If it’s not there then sorry the posts over the next few days will look a bit drab and text-heavy!

I’ve been travelling for 55 minutes so far. I know this because when I started out I began playing Mattin’s new Feedback Conceptual release and that’s how much time has passed according to my iPod. The recording is a massive six and a half hours long give or take a few minutes, which is conveniently about the same time this journey is meant to take today.

The first half an hour of music was very nice, dirty, grungey, electronic feedback styled laptop improvisation. It can be hard to forget how good Mattin can be at this kind of thing when he isn’t confounding or annoying us all with conceptual tomfoolery. I was impressed by the use of space and the way he placed sounds in relation to others, with nice contrasts in shape and texture and the odd drop of tonal colour added here and there.

After about half an hour the music was interrupted by what sounded like a telephone discussion (in Spanish) between Mattin and somone else. Not being a Spanish speaker I could only pick out a few words, with “copyleft” and “anti-copyright” appearing a few times. After a minute or so and a very brief, quietly spoken comment overlaid by Mattin the music returned. Over the next half an hour the speech is blended into the music, sometimes layered, looped or treated in a similar way.

More in a couple of hours all being well, but so far I’ve found this piece of music highly enjoyable. A way to go yet though!

Friday 20th March Pt. 2

By Richard Pinnell |

As the train winds it’s way through the veritable splendour of Birmingham’s suburbs the Mattin recording is a little more of a third if the way through. For the last hour or so the music has moved through extended passages of grey cloudy static and sections focussed on the Spanish speech, often layered and warped into hypnotic masses. The audio signal has often switched to mono as well, alternating between ears as I listen on headphones. This element, particularly on the hissing static sections could be quite disorientating as the silent ear then picked up the sounds of the train around me much clearer. At one point a twenty-odd minute long section of hiss was suddenly cut off by a brief moment of speech before a slightly different fuzzy tone appeared. Slightly sleepy as I am this interruption startled me and I jumped in my seat, making the woman sat opposite eye me slightly suspiciously. As I type the music is in a period of multitracked spoken parts, the foreign words all coalescing into one abstract field of sound. Good stuff.

Friday 20th March Pt. 3

I changed trains at Wolverhampton, in the heart of the English midlands during the half hour I spent there awaiting the last train of my journey Mattin’s epic work had progressed into a drilling, quite brutal digital noise that changed very little except get louder and more intense. This section was very ugly and it was quite fitting that it came to me while in Wolves. After quite a long while (maybe an hour? It’s hard to keep track) this fell away and the speech reappeared, this time submerged in a maelstrom of buffetting noise.

Then after a while the music almost completely disappeared, just quite flutters remaining. Now though, and for about the last half an hour there seems to be complete silence. The iPod still seems to be playing. Maybe the download has failed? Maybe there is meant to be silence? Hmmm…

By the way we just passed some fitting graffiti in Wigan. “make a real difference - buy nothing!” I’m sure Mattin would approve. We passed too quickly to grab a photo sadly.

Friday 20th March Pt. 4

Right OK. So the silence must have lasted at least 90 minutes. That’s what it felt like anyway. I kept the earpieces in all the way through though and did not stop or fast forward the track. I was genuinely worried I had a faulty download. Maybe that’s the point.

However at 4 hours 45 minutes I detected a very faint slither of digital hiss which very slowly built into a steady swathe of shimmering sound, staying at one low volunt for half an hour before the voices returned, now very distorted. As I listen now as we cut through the hills of the lake district it’s like trying to make out voices over a faint longwave radio signal through a haze of radio confusion.

What was the silence for? Just to annoy? Confuse? Perhaps to give some respite after the abrasive sandblasting that preceeded it? It was actually quite welcome here letting me phone julie easily at one point, though always on edge wondering if it might suddenly reappear at volume.

Friday 20th March Pt. 5

And so I reached the end of all six hours and seventeen minutes of the recording. The train is still an hour from Glasgow but then if it was a race I know where my money would always have been.

The last hour was interesting. The first half of it was a raucous shredded blast that had me reaching to lower the volume. Still nice stuff though, quite intricate scribbles of white sound that then gave way to more quiet slithers until, with half an hour to go a recording kicks in of Mattin speaking very softly and calmly. After ten minutes or so this stops only to be replacedby another, as if on reflection later he had more to say. Clearly he us speaking directly to the listener here and as I have always found him in person his voice is charming and easy to listen to even though I cannot understand the language.

I want very much to know what he is saying though. At one point in the first little speech he uses the words “silencio”, “Malfatti” and “Terminator” in one sentence!

Overall I have really enjoyed this experience. Listening over this length of time is somewhat odd. The music almost slipped into the background of my consciousness at times, but knowing who I was listening to and being aware that anything could happen next kept me attentive. It’ll take me a while longer to process my thoughts on this, but this is certainly a very worthwhile, interesting and intriguing release. Definitley worth the struggle to download that some people seem to be having.

Right now I have no music on and am looking forward to tonight’s live music. The views from the train are stunning (clearly we are nowhere near Glasgow yet! ;) ) I doubt I will post again today as my thumb aches!

Corneta (semanario cultural de Caracas, Venezuela, 15 Abril 2009)

El pasado 14 de marzo se anunciaron 4 nuevas referencias del netlabel vasco Larraskito. A falta de poder escuchar en profundidad el nuevo material que se presenta, llama poderosamente la atención ¿la pieza? ¿el disco? ¿el track? ¿el tema? o ¿la referencia? ya que la obra dura más de 6 hora, que por otro lado no deberia sorprender ya que es algo habitual del inclasificable artista Mattin. La obra se llama Feedback Conceptual una suerte de ensayo sonoro sobre la conversación y sobre lo que implica el propio proceso de apropiacionismo a partir de las obras: [Spam Detect] de Xabier Erkizia, publicado por el sello Hamaika; y por otro, Antylogy 0 de Loty Negarti (Aitor Izagirre) publicado por el propio netlabel Larraskito.

Así es como se presenta este artefacto sonoro en la web de Larraskito:

El vasco Mattin es uno de los nombres más populares de la
escena “underground” del arte sonoro a nivel internacional, y no sin razón. Su extensa obra, firmemente creyente en la improvisación como una forma de praxis, lo ha llevado a publicar en decenas de sellos y a giras por todo el mundo, solo o junto a una interminable lista de colaboradores. Se puede mencionar, por ejemplo, su participación en formaciones imprescindibles como Billy Bao, Sakada o los tristemente extintos Josetxo Grieta. Las señas más evidentes de su trabajo en solitario son una elevada rigurosidad conceptual y una aproximación al sonido directa y brutal, a la vez que muy rica y sofisticada, utilizando en su reductiva paleta, ante todo, ruido blanco, feedback y crudas sonoridades digitales. En algunas ocasiones también se nutre directamente del texto y la palabra hablada, algo que ha llevado un paso mas allá en esta obra “feedback conceptual”, introduciendo de forma tanto explícita como conceptual conversaciones con los artistas sonoros Xabier Erkizia y Aitor Izagirre. El resultado es de una gran complejidad, con una intensidad increíble durante su larguísima duración, superior a 6 horas, demostrando su sabiduría formal en una obra de muy controlados recursos entre los que se incluyen un sabio uso de la repetición, del silencio o de la cita intertextual (atentos a la aparición de “diapasones 3.0″ de Mikel Arce). Incluso podriamos decir que llega a trascender lo concreto de un álbum, generando una especie de entorno sonoro interminable hasta lo pesadillesco en su fría y adictiva intensidad, altamente peligrosa para vuestros oidos, y, sobre todo, para vuestro equipo.

Sobre el trabajo de conversación

La idea de Feedback Conceptual (de conceptos, de comunicación humana, de contacto) va más allá del feedback sónico o sintético que creamos con las máquinas que intervienen en lo sonoro. Además, aquí el trabajo de Mattin lo que hace es poner en tela de juicio el propio concepto de autoría, el propio concepto del acto indentificable en el humano, el concepto de huella propia. Él intenta convencer a sus interlocutores de que la actitud copyleft es seguidista (y contraproducente) en una “verdadera” cultura libre. ¿Quizás estamos abriendo un debate sobre la pureza? Su trabajo queda publicado con licencia “anticopyright” que como no es una licencia legal se produce el retruécano de ser una obra, formalmente, con copyright restrictivo. El propio Mattin ya escribió un esayo sobre el tema: Anti-Copyright: why improvisation and noise run against the idea of intellectual property

Pero más allá del debate “Copyright vs Copyleft vs Anti-copyright” en las conversaciones con Izagirre y Erkizia, es destacable también el trabajo por su planteamiento sobre los límites, entre otras cosas porque sus sonidos ya no tienen un soporte conocido en el que puedan quedar fijados (la duración de la pieza es 377 minutos) con lo que podría ser etiquetada como obra postdigital (según la terminología utilizada por Kim Cascone). Es una audioacción en toda regla. Pero en definitiva se trata de una interesante obra / ensayo sonoro del que debería dar que pensar en los laboratorios de lo contemporáneo.

El propio Mattin afirma:

Feedback Conceptual trata de ser de una dialéctica continua entre improvisación y composición, entre conversación y ensayo sonoro, entre lenguaje y poesía concreta, cuestionando constantemente qué es lo que estoy produciendo yo y qué es lo que procede de mis colaboradores.