Thursday, December 22, 2005


Sean Meehan is an NYC-based abstract drummer, and his mind-bending double-CD Sectors (For Constant) recalls the late-80's days of the anti-record, best documented by the great Bananafish. Anti-records were generally unplayable objects - records with out holes, blocks of unpressed vinyl, silent or broken CDs, album sleeves filled with dirt, CDs only available inside a car stereo, etc. "Sectors (For Constant)" discs aren't unplayable, but they come sealed inside two rough pieces of white paper that you have to rip open. Like others, it took me a little while to a) figure out I had to rip the paper to get the discs, and b) have the heart to demolish the beautiful package. Still, as with the crumbling, destructive aspect of most anti-records, there was something really satisfying about tearing through the skin of "Sectors (For Constant)."

The packaging matches the discs' anti-sound, which Meehan constructed using only cymbals and snare drum. Each CD has a single track, one 51:26 long, the other 48:44, and both have insanely long stretches of Cagean silence, the kind that make the quietude of something like Tom Carter's "Monument" (my favorite minimalist epic of recent years) seem hyperactively busy. Check out the graphic waveform of the 51:26 disc below (click on the image for a bigger version) and you'll get an idea of how little is objectively "happening" here.

In between all the white aural blankness, Meehan's alien noises rarely sound like drums. Test-tone ringing, scraping drones, and miniscule rumbles all approach from far off and run quickly back into the darkness. The sound is so distant and uninterested in begging for the listener's attention that it sorta calls into question the idea that "listening to music" is any different from being awake and not being deaf. Experiencing this is more like sifting for lost contact lenses in a deep shag rug than passively listening to a record.

My favorite part of "Sectors (For Constant)" is the end of the 51:26 disc (excerpted below), whose intermittent stretches of piercing tone and subconscious groan are like abstract electronics without the digital sharpness. Meehan's work is admittedly more interesting live - I saw him as part of the Tim Barnes Live Listening tour at True Vine, and the darkness of the room and near-frozen stillness of the peformers made each sound, move, and tiny reflection of light seem like massive events. Maybe Meehan's work is too "academic" to fit alongside grimier noise, but that's context, not content. In terms of the latter, "Sectors (For Constant)" is fascinating tactile art that digs into my spine as much as anything called "noise."

SEAN MEEHAN - "Sectors (For Constant) [excerpt]"


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