@c’s “Espaço, Pausa, Repetição” reviewed by Fluid Sonic Fluctuations

Welcome to the 18th review in my ever continuing series on the Crónica label in which today I’m reviewing the new @c album Espaço, Pausa, Repetição which was released early this month. The album forms a bit of an anniversary for the label, being release 150 in total and also at the same time celebrating the 15th anniversary of the label (in 2018 that is) and even without reading the description of this release you can also, in a way, guess that from the 1, 5 numbers of the 150 catalogue number (if you use some maths and imagination). I’ve reviewed earlier works by @c on this blog before in which the Portuguese Sound Art / Electro-acoustic music duo used field recordings mixed with various other object, human and other concrete sounds as well as instrument recordings and music snippets. This album marks a different approach for @c however as the duo behind @c and Crónica (Miguel Carvalhais and Pedro Tudela) use more than 300 sound objects by a big selection of artists whose music and sound works have been released by Crónica to create the two compositions on this album, which I received first in digital form as review copy but after Miguel also kindly wanted to send me a physical review copy of the actual cassette tape version of Espaço, Pausa, Repetição I obviously gladly accepted to give the album a listen again and see what listening experience I would get through the analogue split up tape format. Espaço, Pausa, Repetição is an album that is linked to the piece Anotações Sonoras: Espaço, Pausa, Repetição that @c created through an invitation for new work from the Exhibitions Pavilion of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto. This piece wasn’t an installation version of the two compositions on this album but actually an installation independent from the compositions on this album but it did use the same sound objects as source for the (aural) composition of the piece which besides the aural part also featured fragrances that were custom designed for the installation as well as a minimalist abstract designed frame and floor that together with bright light formed a kind of surreal subconsciously intruding total immersive experience of sound, light and fragrance which must have emitted an intriguing unique ambience as also the compositions on this album have a very non-linear, at times quite dadaist and varied pointy structure to them in which sonic materials are blended in such ways that beside their tonal or percussive, metallic, dissonant qualities they also have the ability to constantly change our perception, connection to the source of the sounds and even manipulate or create new thoughts and pictures in our minds. Inspiring sonic material indeed. Before I dive into the two pieces on this album, I’ll talk a bit about the presentation of the tape version itself. The cassette tape comes in a standard clear norelco case which showcases the lovely design work of this release rather well. The front cover (which is more expanded in the digital version) features design by Portuguese designer Márcia Novais who’s also created plenty of more vibrant typographic designs, often in poster form which you can find on her site. The cover image is derived from the original poster for the 2018 exhibition that featured Anotações Sonoras: Espaço, Pausa, Repetição and features the three capital letters from the words forming the title of the album in ever increasingly condensed strong type. An infinity symbol refers to the Repetição (repeat) part as being an infinite recursive type of cycle but can also refer to the fact that both for the installation and the compositions on this album a generative system was used to create the arrangements of sound, with a theoretical infinite number of combinations. The curling circles floating over the capital letters both add a nice kind of dynamic feel to the picture but could also refer both to the sound particles’ at times scattered arrangement as well as the organic movement of sound adding “light” to at times quiet moments in the compositions. A strong cover artwork which works as well on the smaller cassette tape format as well as the digital version of the release. The spine features the artist name and album title in Miguel Carvalhais’ signature Crónica uppercase type with the artist name in thinner type than the bold title. Besides this text aligned to the left, you can find the Crónica logo, catalogue number and release year (with a ~ creating a divide between the number and year). On the small back flap of the J-card you can find logos of the organisations that supported the installation and subsequent album release of this work by @c, backed with an extension of the cover image as a background. The cassette tape itself is in a bright white colour shell with on side A, the artist name and album title in the same style type as on the spine and side B featuring the Crónica logo, catalogue number and release year pressed in the same design too. On the flap of the J-card underneath the tape you will find the track division per side as well as track lengths, album credits, a shortened description of the original installation, artwork credits and thanks, copyright info and a link to the Crónica site. The back of this flap also features a nice black and white photo of the side of the installation, mostly showing the frame that was used but other than that the J-card is white, so the design is definitely quite minimalist but thereby also doesn’t spoil too much before listening.

Now, onto the two compositions themselves, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph these compositions have both rather unique structures as well as the ability to intrude within your mind through these varied and at times quite humorous sounds that flow from one to the other in unpredictable manner. First piece Espaço, Pausa (on side A of the tape) is probably a piece that might be a bit hard to get into at first listen as unlike other @c pieces it features many different sounds that often only occur once and follow a very abstract path with many of the sounds as being more rhythmic, metallic and resonant rather than featuring tones or recognisable droning ambience. Fear not however, this piece is a very rewarding listen as its kinetic structures of object sounds, instrument samples, electronic equipment sounds and much more offer intriguing, at times multi-layered sonic images that are very nicely panned in the stereo field, making for colourful dynamic sonic events in which some sound sources are recognisable but you’re also sometimes left wondering what some of these sounds actually are. The first half of the piece can be considered the most “fragmented” dynamic part of the piece as it features mostly separate sonic events that range from metallic rhythmic object sounds both twinkling and clanging in terms of texture, sometimes featuring gated reverb. Continuous paths of sound do also occur in this half but they’re still not falling into the category of recognisable drone ambiences necessarily. I feel this half is mostly comparable to a midnight stroll through the night and noticing all kinds of small short sounds around you, it has a nocturnal feeling to it with the huge amount of sounds scattering and shifting all around you in a kind of vacuum of silence as the space in which these sounds occur is quite diffuse, undefined and varies a lot from sound to sound throughout the piece. More often than not, the sounds are more recognisable as the originals than sounding manipulated which also makes the piece a hybrid between sound composition and a generative showcase of the various original sounds as a kind of tribute to all the artists who contributed to the pieces. This hybrid of composition and tribute is mostly apparent in this first half of the piece in which the scattered style of sound placement leaves quite a lot of separation of the sounds intact within the stereo space. The second half is when the composition moves into a more dense direction as whirring, noise, industrial sounds and metallic elements form an intense ever evolving soundscape of mechanical sonic movement that sometimes gets interrupted by glitchy choppy short collages of sounds. It’s this second half when the separate sonic elements also start to interact with each other more at times forming short melodic or rhythmic snippets (or longer patterns) of sound flowing into each other or cutting off other elements in the mix. @c always keeps a more distanced approach to the sonic material however and while the second half is denser with sound and movement the generative system still leaves a lot of the sounds themselves quite true to the originals. This first piece perfectly showcases that in @c’s and Crónica’s releases themselves the mixture of concrete sounds, manipulations and creation is always one in which artists respect their source material as a guide towards their sonic goal or if we look at the more improvisatory works, a sonic possibility. The fact that the sonic material works so well combined in the composition also shows the consistency in curation of Crónica and the infinite sonic awareness and inspiration these artists all have with @c’s compositions showing their strengths in building abstract sound collages and soundscapes that immerse you in fictional events and environments that feel human yet also at times quite alien through intriguing inventive sonic pictures. Second piece Repetição (on side B of the tape) juxtaposes the sonic elements with a male voice speaking phrases in both English and Portuguese which causes some curious combinations of the phrases and the sounds that follow. The piece follows quite a similar structure to Espaço, Pausa in that its first half is more choppy and fragmented sounding than the second half which features some more longer continuing industrial sonic elements and field recordings. This second piece is however in my opinion a bit stronger than Espaço, Pausa as the unpredictable nature of the pacing of the phrases and sounds that follow creates an effect of listening to a dadaist radio play. The connection between words and at times quite quirky combinations of sounds, whirring, squelchy, at times even a bit cartoon like sonic elements makes the piece quite directly engaging with the listener and there is a bit more of a recognisable compositional logic to grab on. Like mentioned in the description of the release, this piece is more like cataloguing the various sonic elements through abstract descriptions but the continuous flow of ever changing colourful textures is definitely very fun to listen through as even on second, third and more listens you’ll still be surprised by all the movement within the piece, dynamic, mixed source textures scattering and flowing through the stereo field, a great listening experience and on the cassette tape format it offers a nice “throwback” contrast to the more abstracted first side, indeed reminding me of the musique concrete works of Pierre Schaeffer though in modern hi-fi format in this case. So, a great piece to finish this album with definitely.

Espaço, Pausa, Repetição by @c forms both a tribute to the Crónica labels ever continuing legacy and strong artist roster of international sound artists and experimental musicians through a big batch of sound sources provided by them for these pieces and the original installation as well as generatively created compositions that follow @c’s path of inventive and immersive sound collages and soundscapes that don’t necessarily manipulate the sounds as much as blend and move them within the sonic space to create new situations, sonic events that can trigger curious sensations and images and thoughts in your mind and also hit you out of the blue with at times funny sounds that also adds playfulness to the mixture. Both pieces on this album take you on an extended journey of sonic adventure and while second piece Repetição is a bit stronger in its connection of the sounds themselves within the compositional structure, the more abstracted piece Espaço, Pausa is also a very rewarding and intriguing listen which also offers some crisp warm industrial ambience in its second half. I’d say that this release can very well be a great introduction for anyone who’s discovering Crónica for the first time as the great mixture of elements from all the artists featured as well as the execution of the compositions themselves is both a great example and independent work of Crónica’s ever continuing sonic journey crossing the boundaries of sound and music in exciting inspired and intriguing ways. A great release which I can definitely recommend to fans of sound collages and soundscapes in general as well as fans of Electro-acoustic (improvised) music. Check this out. Orlando Lamans out. Orlando Laman

via Fluid Sonic Fluctuations

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