The Return of Experimedia

Jeremy Bible’s Experimedia is one of the world’s most comprehensive and consistent online music outlets.  But Experimedia is also a record label.  This week, the label returns after a three-year hiatus, presenting Matthias Urban‘s Passagen and Pascal Savy‘s Dislocations.

While the releases may share a common genre, their emphasis and construction differ.  The liner notes are crucial in understanding that the first is in some ways the ultimate cymbal album, while the second addresses the collapse of capitalism.  Neither fact is evident from listening alone.

Matthias Urban’s work is reminiscent of the quieter sound sculptures of Harry Bertoia.  Magnetic springs were attached to cymbals, and an electromagnet was used to tease out their inherent properties.  Many seem like sine waves repeating ever more urgent frequencies.  The overall effect is meditative, akin to a Buddhist temple.  The classic cymbal sound is undetectable at first, but the more one listens, the more one detects the oft-ignored shimmer that follows a cymbal hit.  Imagine these as the aftermath, all impacts excised.

Not until halfway through the album does an element of urgency intrude.  “Studie IV (Instabil)”s higher and lower pitched tones come across like the tuning of violins and cellos.  Amazingly, such pitches were created simply by “manipulating (the) frequency, amplitude, angle, and distance of the electromagnet,” a process akin to playing the theremin.  By the end, the music has crossed firmly yet pleasantly into drone.  “Studie V (Immun)” and “Studie VI” continue in this vein, the first menacing and the second dissonant: found properties teased out by magnetism.  If you think you know what a cymbal sounds like, listen again.

Pascal Savy’s work is more political in nature, although the process took an unexpected turn.  The project began with a sense of dislocation sparked by the inhumanity of capitalist systems.  The album might well have been titled Disillusionment.  But along his journey, the artist “reconnected with his art, his community and his sense of hope.”  We’re not surprised.  Through the process of creativity one realizes that new things are still coming into form; new ideas can be transposed into systems, politics, governments.  The music becomes a metaphor for the possibility of change. As such, Dislocations is an album at war with itself: it wants to be dour, but the sun keeps poking through the clouds.  The dynamic contrast produced by this conflict becomes the album’s greatest strength.

Savy offers “The Slow Cancellation of the Future” as both prelude and overture.  The tone of the track is alternately shaded and bright.  Over the next few tracks, the darkness will intrude to the point where it seems it was won.  For a while, it seems that those early candles have been snuffed out.  But “Allow the Light” introduces a different kind of light: one born from the experience of night, echoing St. John of the Cross.  The fragile light of innocence has been replaced by the durable light of vision.  The long night is over; the artist has struggled through a thick morass of crushed ideals, breaking through the surface of the material to find the spiritual.  We intuit his struggle, but we also share in his triumph. (Richard Allen)

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