Sunday, February 26, 2006


Like most noise dolts, I have a prediliction for all-out blast, but I'm rapidly growing a second soft spot for minimalist noise, or what if I was still in school I guess I'd call reductionism. I know just a few current practitioners, and only through Tim Barnes, who's played with Mark Wastell, Sean Meehan, Jeph Jerman, Mattin, etc., all of whom have fascinating takes on miniature sound and the spaces in between. This kind of low-volume audio art can get a little museum-ish, if only because you have to be almost motionless to appreciate or even hear it. But a lot of minimal noise has the same effect as meditation: the near-total lack of what overstimulated daily life calls "something happening" has a paradoxically visceral effect. I.E. the best minimal noise hits the gut as hard as a power drone or feedback screech, maybe even harder, since the responding movement is all internal.

Tim Olive is a Canadian-born guitarist living in Japan whose stuff qualifies as minimalist noise. At least his latest CD does - it's a pretty amazing untitled collaboration with Japanese guitarist Nisikawa Buhnsho, who I think runs the Gule label that this release inaugurates. Apparently Olive plays one-string bass here, and Buhnsho plays guitar and "broken record player," but as with all good noise, figuring out who's doing what is both impossible and pointless. Four tracks of ascending length (3, 7, 11, and 19 minutes), and an infinite amount of tiny, textured noises clustered into patches of restrained detail. Some of it, like the track that I'm posting below, is actually pretty busy, but elsewhere there are tons of quiet stretches and pin-prick points of nano-sound, and even the most active parts have an enticing distance and careful subtlety that totally rake the spine.

I usually tell people resistant to free-jazz that you've gotta see it performed and then decide, cause the physical feats in the playing are pretty hypnotizing. Same thing goes for minimal noise - I can listen to this stuff all day, but watching it is even more fascinating. Instead of someone pushing the limits of their energy, you get the opposite: the performer actually has to fight the impulse to fill the silence, and trust that even the smallest sounds are worth leaving alone. The resulting tension makes the tiniest moves and briefest sounds seem huge, and time slows so much that you can feel the inside of each second like a barely-perceptible breeze. I think all of that is true of Olive and Buhnsho's CD too, but I'd love to see them perform - apparently Tim is planning a US trip for May or so, so keep your eyes and ears sharply peeled...

TIM OLIVE & NISIKAWA BUHNSHO - "iKA/Bunt is My Profession" from (untitled)


Anonymous Paul Barnaby said...

Hey, it's not just me! I really like the Gule stuff (lots of great mp3 on their website) and all out noise too.

8:23 AM  

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