Pierce Warnecke ~ Deafened By The Noise Of Time

The notes accompanying Pierre Warnecke’s new album Deafened by the Noise of Time begin with a quote from the German author, W.G. Sebald.  Taken from his experimental final novel Austerlitz, the quotation ends with a melancholic mediation on sonic absence and “…how the world is, as it were, draining itself, the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power of memory is never heard…”

It’s an appropriate epigraph for an album which Warnecke describes as “a speculative take on how sound might decay and disappear.”  For the album the multidisciplinary artist took a series of compositions originally developed for a performance in 2017, stripped them down, and ‘covered’ them with interruptions, distortion, and silence.  

The album’s first track consists of beautiful eruptions of sound alternating with periods of near silence. The cool, lush washes of synthetic sound are occasionally extended, albeit briefly, and echoed by various sounds including snatches of distortion, the sound of a plucked string, and the brief drone of a raspy horn.  The layers of sound and distortion become more pronounced and suggestive as the piece builds; the faint sound of voices follows one crescendo and hissing and scratching build atop the no longer calm space between sounds as the piece nears its end.  While the work’s periods of near silence evoke the melancholy of the gaps in history and memory Sebald describes, the accumulation of sound that disrupts them suggests the always latent possibility of their filling.

The opening track has a sense of wistfulness and beauty the works that follow approach but don’t ever quite recapture.  On the second track Warnecke seems less interested in conjuring feelings than in developing a continuous, unsettled soundscape comprised of  regular modulations between piercing, wavering sine tones and reverberant crescendos of layered drones.  While the third track approaches the melancholy movement of the first, pensive crescendos and decrescendos of steely synthesized sound, the mood it establishes is less beautiful and more ominous.  

In addition to his musical practice Warnecke is a visual artist, interested in the way in which film fights back against impermanence and how traces of memory and affect persist in objects and materials which have been distorted seemingly beyond recognition.  His videos are minimalist in content but maximalist in technological mediation; the manipulations to which he subjects his photographic subjects border on visual chaos.  The images are dense with hapticity and texture, visuals that are matched by the crunchy, mangled tenor of the soundscapes which often accompany them.  The compositions on Deafened by the Noise of Time too confuse the line between simplicity of structure and density of texture as Warnecke plays with the affective difference between textural accretion and subtraction

Recalling Sebald’s account of the objects which, having no memory are never heard, Warnecke’s compositions meditate on the inherent melancholy of sonic objects, the way in which sound is always already disappearing.  There’s a palpable reluctance to this album’s slow development which lingers long enough in sounds and the space between them to imbue them with traces of familiarity and memory, however fleeting.  (Jennifer Smart)

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