When does noise become music, and vice versa? When does repetition become semantic saturation, and when does saturation regain meaning? These are the noble questions of Danish sound artist Martin Pale, whose latest effort provides a concise investigation of these properties. Over the course of 18 minutes, these two tracks surge into and retreat from red levels, flirting with density, thickness and overload; yet beneath the noise lies an intense beauty.
If one were to dissect the tracks, one would likely find simple constructions, described as “layers of distorted vibrating metal covering dense strings and subtle high frequency feedback”. In short, Pale establishes the parameters and allows the sounds to play, like a quiet referee. But there’s a method to his madness. These pieces operate as aural illusions, conjuring images of careful compositions, especially in their surges. When distorted church bells ring through the smoke of the first piece, the ear gravitates to their form. When harmonic clusters develop, one imagines tuning orchestras finding the same key. Two “beats” in the final thirty seconds create thoughts of meter. Left on its own, the mind perceives architecture, even where none is present; this is how we make sense of the world. Yet in the end, the fade-ins and fade-outs reveal the presence of a human hand.
Is there actual music in this mix? To these ears, there is, which seems to prove the theory of semantic saturation. Push the barriers, and repetition loses its meaning. Push further, and deeper meaning is revealed. This is the signal in the noise, akin to the message from beyond, embedded in the static and sonic debris. Pale might be the perfect person to join the S.E.T.I. project, as his ears are keenly attuned to finding the needle in the haystack. But his “noise” tag seems too eagerly given, as the second piece in particular possesses a clear forward trajectory, loud to louder, with gentle modulation: great volume that is somehow unabrasive. This distinguishes him from others in the field, who prefer dissonance to consonance. Distinguishing the chords is only part of the fun. The intertwined volume and density suggest a celestial grandeur, a higher calling, a mission to the stars. (Richard Allen)