The latest split cassette from mise_en_scene / Voigt vs. Gerendás is a study in contrast: low vs. loud. Side A is filled with the hums and tones one might expect from appliances and well-oiled machinery, while Side B imitates the more immediate sounds of broken equipment and large rusted gears.
As film afficionados know, soft sounds are not always soothing, and mise_en_scene has no intention of putting listeners to sleep. Inspired by the anechoic chambers that have unsettled the likes of John Cage, Side A contains three variations on a theme: flowing sine patterns that echo the body’s internal hum. Each variation grows more insistent, mimicking the body’s slow realization that while the external body may be at rest, the internal body remains intensely active. The undulations may be more perceived than present; there’s no way to tell, because the ear creates its own modulations. But these many-layered pieces seem anything but static. While each variation contains internal development, there’s no culmination in the set. A distant, high-toned beeping in the final minutes of “Variation III” sets up the tape hiss silence, click and lock that leads listeners to flip the tape.
Side B presents an altogether more immediate affair, the result of a file exchange between Daniel Voigt and Thomas Gerendás. The two artists traded, manipulated and devastated each other’s sound files, creating intentional wreckage. The results are a lot louder than those found on Side B, both in thickness and in volume. In “Transit”, a dour bassline underpins a series of crackles, whorls and other sonic debris while a fractured whistle blows and multiple frequencies vie for space on the same wavelength. It would be easy to classify this side as outer noise and Side A as inner noise, save for the fact that the outer world often hums while the inner world often gurgles. “Transit” remains intensely active throughout, like agitated insects whose home has been destroyed. A single thread finally becomes apparent in the closing seconds, a tether to the garbled dialogue samples and construction sounds of the 13-minute “Burnt Cop”. As the track progresses, layer upon layer of drones and tones are added until the piece becomes as disturbing as its title. The higher pitched tones imitate the sound of violins, dropping out temporarily two-thirds of the way through so the listener can appreciate the snap and pop. Purposeful damage seldom lends itself to such beauty.
Together, the sides operate as yin and yang: low tones and loud, stillness and motion, separate yet intermingled, curling like a couple yet lodged in the center of the other. Each adds to the understanding of the other, enhancing it by its presence. (Richard Allen)