Over the past decade, we’ve become accustomed to experiencing Sculpture (musician Dan Hayhurst and visual artist Reuben Sutherland) as a vinyl/video combo. Nearest Neighbour flips the script with tape and graphic novel. For those who prefer the old ways, there’s still a video (seen below), in which we learn that an optical illusion can be achieved by spinning the cassette on a turntable. Like most other Sculpture releases, Nearest Neighbour is packed with secrets, sonic and otherwise, but the comic book format offers the opportunity for greater visual comprehension.
Nearest Neighbor is also one of the duo’s longest releases, topping out at 71:01. Yet the opening track is nearly ten minutes long, leaving the other 22 pieces an hour in which to frolic. Even this is a trick of the ear, as “Deprogramming” shifts gears so many times it seems like a group of tracks rather than a single entity. This has always been the hallmark of Hayhurst’s work, whose angular nature defies comprehension. Often accessible, yet seldom predictable, these tracks make maximum use of stereo effects and depth of field. Certain mid-length entries (“Nite Flite”) are suited for the dance floor, while the shorter ones add texture and the longer ones disorient ~ much like Sutherland’s videos and tactile art.
What’s the best way to enjoy this audio-visual offering? An installation house would be perfect, especially one that displayed wall-sized reproductions of each page. In lieu of such an installation, we recommend reading the graphic novel along with a nearby magnifying glass and kaleidoscope. Fans of the duo will already feel the earth rotating like a turntable as they recall sonic themes from prior compositions. The same effect can be achieved even without the vinyl releases’ phone strobe.
But one may go crazy trying to “unlock a code” that may or may not be present according to the artists. If no patterns come to mind, one may wish to close one’s eyes and take in the music. In these grooves, one will hear repetitions, transitions, abstractions and creative juxtapositions. If the album sometimes sounds like a caffeinated radio listener trying to secure a distant station (“Crisp Void”), the association is likely intentional. After all, there are many influences here, and Hayhurst darts between them like a hummingbird.
For every track of outright groove, there’s another of quiet astonishment. “Flat Battery” is only 1:20 in length but holds one of the album’s most head-bobbing passages. No specific method seems to have been applied to the track sequencing, save for surprise. What’s around the corner? What’s on the next page? What will tomorrow bring? These questions swivel and swirl, sparking the imagination. At the end, we still don’t get all the answers, but we remain as interested in the search. (Richard Allen)