Czech sound artist Slavek Kwi (also known as Artificial Memory Trace) is in love with sound, and he loves to collaborate with others who love sound as well. Each of his two new CD3″ releases on his own label began in dialogue and ended in digital files. Exchanges Across a Dinner Table came about as a result of conversations with Simon Whetham, beginning in the Amazon and continuing in England. Collaboration 2009-2012 began as Kwi and Linda O’Keeffe exchanged and expanded on 30-second sound clips contributed by the other; eventually the 30 seconds blossomed into 30 minutes, a multiplication of sixty.
Exchanges Across a Dinner Table is a pair of soundscapes, titled “simslao” and “slaosim”, contained on a pair of CD3″s. In order to keep them straight, one needs to match each disc to its corresponding photo or colored dot. “simslao” begins with soft electronic tones, but explodes into harshness within only a few seconds. After this, the piece turns its attention to an ever-tumbling array of interesting sounds, from flies and leaking balloons to saws both powered and handheld. Many of these sounds repeat – for example, the opening tones reappear in the fourth minute – but so many new ones are added that the ear is continually drawn to new locations. The middle of the piece is a work of pure drone – first soothing, then distended, a fine contrast to the beginning and end. “slaosim” is a bit gentler, harvesting many of the same sources in a different manner. The elevator-like noises are amplified, along with the speeding-up and slowing-down of machinery. Crickets and motorcycles also appear, taking their place alongside expanding metal, wind chimes and rumbling trains. The specifics are all conjecture – the balloon may be a dog toy or kazoo, while the power saw may be a power drill – but guessing is a large part of the fun.
Collaboration 2009-2012 contains a more vertical dynamic range; its sonic peaks are higher than those on Exchanges, and its red zones more intrusive. Conversation is a primary element, as are electronics. From time to time, each surges forth, as if fighting for the last seat at the dinner table. The beeps and gurgles could be interpreted as electronic mirrors of the digestive process. Potentially more disturbing is the de-personifying of a child’s voice in the first part, the child used in service to the machine. In the second, more compact piece, the opposite takes place, as the electronics are eventually subsumed by the sound of happy babies and children at play: clapping, shaking rattles, playing ping-pong. The leaking balloon sound of “simlao” also reappears here, connecting the two releases. While no overt message is given, one is implied: humanity trumps technology.
The mind often contributes a concept where none is intended. But no matter what one makes of the impetus behind these recordings, they celebrate the variety of sound available to the human ear. As such, they promote the aural sense and the desire to exercise it to its fullest extent. (Richard Allen)