Eight weeks ago, we covered the first batch of releases in the Amplify 2020 quarantine festival: an explosion of creativity featuring 125 albums and EPs to enjoy at home during the pandemic. Since then, Amplify has released 55 more. This is crazy. What a festival. Today marks the 200th day of the year, and we’re almost up to an album a day, which means ~ drum roll, please ~ an entire blog our size could cover nothing but Amplify 2020 releases! Since we have other submissions to cover as well, we trust that experimental music fans will simply go to the site and start their virtual tour, perhaps with snacks and a beer. To provide another idea of scope, at its current size, playing all 180 EPs and albums would fill every waking hour for a week. This is one dynamic festival, with every album and EP free to download.
Again we won’t cover everything, but we’ll make a few stops along the way. The first stop: Tim Feeney‘s in the heat it will magically go away. This magical thinking phrase was spoken by some in government back in spring, but guess what! The pandemic only got worse. The arid, rustling nature of Feeney’s composition is a reflection of summer heat, combined with the dryness of our souls. The specific sounds are attributed to “One brush, two drums, one rock, transmission tower, high tension wires, CA-14, train, birds, plane, dust,” which is another form might look like a poem. The “one rock” is a nice touch. Fortunately the birds still sing despite the dry nature of the track, a reminder that good things are still happening among the bad. The single half-hour piece picks up stray threads of melody before dissolving in howling wind. One may make it a metaphor or enjoy the density without interpretation. Coronavirus, be gone!
And now, attention Matmos! Choi Joonyong has just demonstrated just what sort of weirdness people get into when they are bored. Washing Machine is also visual evidence that someone’s warranty has been voided. As the artist throws ping-pong balls into the machine, he not only creates a surprisingly engaging piece, he also makes us smile and resolve to be more playful. Can I try this at home? I’m not sure, but wow, this is great! This reminds me, I have to do laundry today …
Next comes a sonic report from Glasgow that Mark Vernon has totally lost it during lockdown. For years, he’s been recording The Dominion of Din, comprised of every annoying sound he’s heard from his rear window. Neighbors use leaf blowers at ungodly hours, objects are dragged, dogs bark, beer is delivered every day (but unfortunately not to Vernon), recyclable glass is broken every night. Vernon reports that these sounds virtually disappeared during the pandemic, during which he played them back and created a soundscape. Yep, he’s definitely lost it. Someone’s hammering, someone’s panting, people are yelling about inane things (a water pipe!), workers are singing “Zombie” off key and oh God, not Für Elise, make it stop! I wouldn’t want to live where Vernon lives, but I understand his situation ~ the lack of the usual annoying sounds has been nirvana. He’s made something good from something bad, at the cost of his sanity.
Co-organizer Vanessa Rossetto is back with another intricate set, another appealing, postcard-style cover and an even longer title: you have to rehearse your presentation, practice completing within the time limits allowed. That’s it, we’re used up our word count, no space for the review! Just kidding. Rossetto’s two-part presentation begins with micro sounds, domestic and outdoors, and grows thicker as it proceeds. Whistles, rustles and laughter are folded in, preserving the sense of fun conveyed by the cover art. The second “side” grows busier and busier, like the end of lockdown, converging in a massive traffic jam with a honking chorus. Have we missed this? We have not. Were we thankful for the respite? The answer varies from person to person. We’ll miss some things about lockdown, though few will rise to the level of nostalgia.
The Amplify 2020 quarantine festival is still going, as the latest releases landed only two days ago. In this time of diminishment, it’s wonderful to hear an amplification. (Richard Allen)