After co-founding the influential Sheffield industrial band Cabaret Voltaire in the 1970s, Chris Watson turned to field recording. He has had an illustrious career as a sound recordist with both solo work and commissions for organizations like National Geographic and the BBC Natural History Unit. His solo albums for Touch include Weather Report (2003) and El Tren Fantasma(2011), both classics in their genre.
For the BBC, Watson has recorded sound for many nature documentaries hosted by David Attenborough, including The Life of Birds (1998) and Frozen Planet (2012). He has also created sound installations for galleries across the world. He recently contributed the piece “Unlocked” to Unsound Festival’s Intermission compilation. On March 4th, 2021, Matthew Blackwell met with Chris Watson over Skype to discuss haunted landscapes, dangerous animal encounters, and whether the Atlantic and Pacific oceans sound different from one another.
Matthew Blackwell: Where are you located now? In Northumberland?
Chris Watson: Yeah, in the northeast of England. Just north, in the suburbs really, of Newcastle. But I’ve been away actually, on a shoot these past few days.
What is Northumberland like, for someone who hasn’t been there? I’ve been to England, but only London.
It’s far better than anywhere in London. It’s the northeast of England, so it’s a coastal county, a very ancient county. It’s got a really remarkable coastline which is quite industrial at the southern end, near the River Tyne, near the city, but as you go further north it gets wilder, rather more remote. Yeah, it’s great. Ends up at Lindisfarne and then inland, there’s a large forest area, one of the largest planted forests in Europe, Kielder Forest, where I do a lot of recording. And then there’s a lot of open hill land, the Cheviot Hills, which have a really old history as well.
In the 17th century, this area was really occupied by clansmen, by families that didn’t think of themselves as either Scottish or English because Northumberland borders Scotland. And that really didn’t mean much to them because they were associated in family groups. Collectively, they were known as the Border Reivers. It was really quite a violent place because these people would go around robbing other farms and properties and stealing cattle. And they made their own laws—they didn’t bother with laws that were made in London or Scotland. They sort of lived by the sword and that’s evident still in some of the place names where I go recording. There’s places like Hangman’s Rock and Murder Cleugh and Bloody Bush. If you were visited by the Border Reivers, you were “bereaved,” which is where the term comes from, to give you some idea of what they would do.
So it’s great, I love it! (laughter). It’s relatively unpopulated as well, so you can get away from people and places quite easily.
You recorded there for a piece a few years ago called Haunted Spaces, is that correct?
Yes, the Soniccouture piece. Well, that included recordings from all around the world, actually, but I did some special recordings in Northumberland. And I’m doing so again, actually, for another edition to that series.
Oh really? Excellent.
It may be out later this year or early next year, I’m not sure. But yes, I’ve been working with James [Thompson] on that. I really like doing those, actually. It’s a really interesting way of applying some of my recordings. And I use that Haunted Spaces [sound library] myself, I really like it.
Could you explain a bit about the concept of a “haunted space” that the project is based on?
The title really comes from haunted spaces, from a long time ago—and this covers some of what I’ve just described, actually. In the early 1980s, when I first moved up here to Northumberland, I was reading some of the books of Thomas Lethbridge. Thomas Lethbridge was the director of the Museum of Antiquities in Cambridge in the 1930s. He was an academic, but was also a historian, archeologist, and explorer, and he spent a lot of his time on location investigating places, and as far as I was aware he was the first person to use the technique of dowsing over maps to find places. Something which just blew my mind when I was reading this in the 1980s, that you could dowse with a map of a place and then go and find what you were looking for in reality. He wrote very eloquently and interestingly about places that he thought were inhabited by a sense and spirit of place and he tried to investigate as to why that was and what that embodied.
To put it very simply to start with, in our lives we can all go into houses or buildings and quite often, if people are house-hunting or looking for a new apartment, you can walk into somewhere and you get a feeling of good or bad. People quite often say, “that house, that room, that space has an atmosphere.” Thomas Lethbridge was interested in investigating that. And when I moved up here, I started looking at the maps of Northumberland to find places to record. And I found these places on the map in remote parts of Northumberland which were called Hangman’s Rock, Murder Cleugh, Bloody Bush. I went up there, and now there’s a planted forest in many of those areas because just after the First World War there was a national timber shortage. The forestry commission planted forest on what was moorland and upland and the remote valleys of the Cheviot Hills. But the place names on the old maps and on the ordnance survey maps still held the history of what had happened there and why these places had been named so. So I went up there to see if I could retrieve something, draw something out of that landscape even though it had been transformed, which drew upon that history, which again was something that Lethbridge believed, that he discovered.
Hanne Lippard is a UK-born, Berlin-based poet, writer, and visual artist whose works primarily deals with the production and perception of language. Lippard has had exhibitions and performances across Europe throughout the past decade, but released her debut album Work last year on Collapsing Market. Last month she released her second audio document, PigeonPostParis via Boomkat Editions, which is a whimsical travelogue that showcases Lippard’s astute ability to draw parallels between ostensibly disparate ideas through text. Joshua Minsoo Kim talked with Hanne Lippard on March 20th, 2021 to discuss her two albums, handwritten letters, the differences between Berlin and Paris, and more.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: Hello!
Hanne Lippard: Hello, how are you?
I’m good, how are you?
I just came back from Brussels. I have a year-long show in a place called MuHKA, which is a contemporary art museum in Antwerp. It’s been a lot of work; that’s the only thing I’ve done so far this year (laughter). But that’s because it’s a three-part show and it’s changing every third month so there’s a lot of planning and it will go on until February of next year. There are a lot of things happening in between but yes, it’s a bit unconventional to be committing to a show for a whole year. It was great, but I’m a bit tired today (laughs).
I’m sure! What does the show entail?
It’s something that’s a pilot project—it’s the first time they’re doing something called a “Superhost,” which is a bit of a funny title. The Superhost is the artist and [MuHKA] will develop a relationship with the artist through a whole year instead of having this one single solo show. They want to develop something together with an artist every year, digging a bit deeper into the artist’s practice. That means I’ll also be involved in discursive programs and an online radio show.
We’re gonna include performances and we’ve decided that these shows will be a retrospective showing of my work. I’ve been active for ten years but it’s a bit early to look back (laughter) but it’s interesting because you realize that you do have a lot of work when seeing it all in one room instead of in a PDF, y’know?
It’s a challenge to show things parallel to each other because in this show we have two sound pieces—sound upon sound usually doesn’t work. One is a spoken piece and the other is more of a sound sculpture. There are two sound sources in the same space—it’s interesting to see how that can work. That’s basically the concept behind the show.
Since it’s the first they’re trying this [Superhost program] out, things were not really thought-out sometimes. I had to be a part of the decision making. It’s been intense. I’m being polite there (soft laughter) but it’s alright now. I’m back here and have a bit of a break. In April I’m gonna concentrate on a bunch of other things.
Well, hopefully you can have some rest between now and April.
I’m taking Monday off, which is a bit crazy (laughter). These days, Monday is the new Sunday, or… who knows.
Are you the sort of person who feels the need to constantly be working on something?
It’s interesting, this idea of what “constantly working” is, especially if you work as a poet, or whatever I call myself. In the last years I’ve come more to terms with the fact that working is also thinking, which seems so abstract. It’s not the capitalist model, let’s say, of working. Or the Calvinist idea of working. I do need a lot of time by myself—time really by myself as a single individual.
I think the last year has made me realize that much more because before I would work a lot in a sense that I’m always performing or doing a show. A lot of artists do use their body in one way or another, but when I perform I use my voice, and I find that I’m more exposed than someone who does painting, for instance—they can hide more easily during their opening. To do performance is often very exhausting; even if it’s only 30 minutes, you tend to be quite dead afterwards.
I try to be more realistic [now]. When you put things into a calendar, having several hours between something seems like loads of time but when you’re actually in the physical body of that, you do need more time. I think the last year really proved that because there was more time, but I didn’t travel. I used to travel and have like three or four flights a week, but this time I had one flight and I was really dead the whole day. It was like, “What did I do when I had three or four flights a week?” It was nuts. I guess everyone has that pressure. Do you freelance?
I’m a high school science teacher and I do all this music journalism on the side for fun.
So you have the full-time job, or at least a fixed job, and then the freelancing. That’s pretty intense. If you only sort of freelance you have this guilt, almost, if you don’t work, but I guess you don’t even have that (laughs).
Oh, I feel like I have that to some extent. I always feel the need to be working on something. It’s an interesting thing… I’ve thought about it a lot this past year. I’m 28, which is not very old, but I feel like I’m at this point where I’ve done things in my life where I’d be okay—at least theoretically—if I were to die. It’s like, okay, I did something with my life. I sort of view everything moving forward as a bonus, but I also have this mindset where I want to make the most of my time. There’s a pressure, but there’s not this pressure of, “I need to do this or my life would have been useless.” Like, last year I did around 60 interviews.
And that was when you were working as a teacher full-time? So you’re spending your spare time doing this.
Yeah. I love talking with people, so that makes it easy. I feel like I have two modes: I either do things constantly, or I don’t do anything at all, and the latter can only be so fun for so long.
I guess right now, since we’re not really meeting people much in real life apart from real close friends, interviewing people might be a nice way to feel like you’re not completely cut off from the social sphere, no? It’s like you’re at a bar and meeting people at a bar you don’t know, in that sense.
Yeah, exactly. I wanted to ask you, when was the last time you wrote a handwritten letter to someone?
Oh, wow. That’s an interesting topic because my mom writes me a handwritten letter every month. It’s been less in the past years, but I never really reply with anything handwritten, I would always reply with email. And that’s like a letter, not a note, right? Like in an envelope.
Farida Amadou is one of the most exciting young players to emerge from the free-improvisation/experimental scene in Europe, having treated us to some explosive performances with Steve Noble and Thurston Moore here over the past few years.
Dit event wordt uitgezonden op Podium 19, een nieuw en gratis cultuurkanaal. Je kan op Podium 19 terecht voor virtuele voorstellingen, optredens en concerten uit de Vlaamse cultuurhuizen. Podium 19 is te zien op kanaal 19 van Proximus Pickx (kanaal 269 vanuit Brussel of Wallonië), kanaal 99 van Telenet TV, kanaal 20 van Orange TV en uitgesteld via VRT NU. Meer info op www.podium19.be.
Mosquitoes are a band best described through what they are not. They are no wave by negation; post punk but only at a push, and are more This Heat or DNA than Orange Juice. They are not rock or punk, although they have drums, guitar, bass and vocals; they are certainly not jazz, although like free improvisation there is an ambition to escape genre. They are like Mars in some respects, but make Live At Artist’s Space sound like a Gang Of Four best of. They have also been compared to US Maple, Nate Young’s Regression series, and German industrial group P16.D4.
These comparisons are however, stretched to their threadbare limits when subjected to Mosquitoes’ suffocating absence of footholds, their abandonment of the scaffolding of lyrics, riffs and regular rhythms but retention of whirr and rattle, fatigued industrial textures, wordless vocals, echoes, clangs and thuds.
They have captured some of the no wave palette in hollow production treatments; the ricocheting reverb of analogue dub; they are experimental in the sense in which everything without verse and chorus is experimental in some way or another, but are also not experimental, because after years of playing together, Mosquitoes know exactly what they are doing. Now, five years after their first 7” was released, they have a small and committed following in underground circles, and while they have turned heads and sold out short runs of their EPs to experimentally-preoccupied fans, they have also resisted becoming any sort of scene band – they’d have to play live a bit more for that.
I first met Mosquitoes, the trio of Clive Phillips (drums), Peter Blundell (voice and bass guitar), and Dominic Goodman (guitar and electronics) in person last summer, in the shadow of Zaha Hadid’s Olympic pool during the brief hot freedoms of summer 2020. Prior to that interview, there had been little information about them online – I knew little more than their recorded output and their band name, which always appears on sleeves in Blundell’s bold freehand type. This was a glorious absence of context, the sort that doesn’t come around much nowadays for a band with a handful of records out, even if technically, haven’t ever released a full-length album.
Today, I am speaking to them all separately (and remotely), to parse their sound and triangulate the sensibilities that form their distinctive push and pulling apart of the not-quite-post-punk palette. In person last year, the conversation had pinged in half-finished sentences between each member, a stream of consciousness from three individuals, but talking to them apart reveals the contribution and character of each – Blundell is literary, the organiser, and prone to explosive bursts of laughter; Phillips is an obsessive editor who wants to strip everything back to almost nothing, but with whom it’s hard to get a word in edgeways; Goodman is the mediator when it comes to artwork, a sort of thoughtful magpie for texture, space, and restraint.
The absence of information is intentional, but is not intended to be cryptic. Instead, it is an extension of their refusal to put anything out they don’t feel absolutely necessary, because originally, nothing was ever supposed to be out there at all. “In the early days ‘mysterious’ was attached to us quite a lot,” says Goodman, “but it was more about being very controlled about how we wanted to communicate and for all those communications to be worthwhile.”
Mosquitoes never intended to release music or play live – they were just friends with shared interests at first. Phillips and Blundell knew each other from art school in the 1990s, and then Phillips introduced Goodman and Blundell at a Fushitsusha gig in 2012. They talked so much about art and film and music, at some point someone suggested they make some, so they started playing as a trio. Goodman describes those early sessions as a “freedom bubble” of music-making, but one where they spent three years refining a vocabulary of sound. Only Blundell had ever played in bands before, with musician (and Café Oto sound engineer) James Dunn, in a duo called Temperatures.
Dennis Tyfus' work is based on an unbridled drawing practice and a preference for language and words, but the way it appears is always different. The work is constantly moving. The sculptural aspect of Tyfus’s work is to be found in the way in which he carefully and consciously deals with the space it occupies. Tyfus’s work is everywhere, and often in the public sphere. There are flyers and posters, drawings, paintings and performances, as well as installations, sculptures, videos, vinyl records, concerts, T-shirts, magazines, books, and tattoos. Through his label Ultra Eczema, which by now has produced about 250 releases, Tyfus integrates influences and interests and keeps count of his tangled artistic practice.
Dennis Tyfus is in residency at les ateliers claus to work on his latest compositions for piano and voice.
At the end of the 1960s, I was making electronically generated music whose vocabulary consisted entirely of overtones and pitches tuned in just intonation. I had been trained as a harpsichord tuner and had tuned La Monte Young’s The Well-Tuned Piano at the dawn of the seventies during my student days with him, so tuning the pitches by ear in my own pieces was a relatively simple procedure for me.
My music evolved from this starting point. I was a hard-core minimalist and was experimenting with non-notated music of various sorts at that point. This led to my interest in improvisation and my work with Frederic Rzewski’s group, Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV) NY. The “jazz loft” scene was in full swing in New York during this period. By the mid-1970s New York was saturated with improvised music. I grew tired of it and searched for something else.
I took a look at the various musical strains prevalent on the art music scene in New York at that time: composers such as Young and Charlemagne Palestine were working with music in just intonation; Philip Glass was pioneering process music; Steve Reich was exploring the implications of phase music; and Frederic Rzewski was weighing the differences between notated and non-notated music.
It was around this time I went to hear my first rock concert at CBGB’s—it was the Ramones. While hearing them, I realized that, as a minimalist, I had more in common with this music than I thought. I was attracted by the sheer energy and raw power of the sound as well as chord progressions, which were not dissimilar from some of the process music I had been hearing at the time.
Although it was true that I considered myself an art music composer working with rock instrumentation in a rock context (making music that I insisted was art music), the fact of the matter was that my music at this time was not “not rock.” The point of interest was that the signification of my pieces radically changed depending on the audience and context I was playing in, even though the music we played for each was virtually the same.
In 1981, I made a piece entitled Drastic Classicism (alternately known as Drastic Classical Music for Electronic Music) for four electric guitars, electric bass, and drums. The guitars were in special, dissonant tunings in just intonation—dissonant both in relation to themselves and to each other. Because a good deal of the melodic movement in Drastic Classicism rested with the higher overtones generated by the electric guitars, and because these overtones are rather soft, the musicians in my ensemble tended to turn their guitar amplifiers up to obscenely high levels of sound in order to reinforce the amplitude of the delicate higher harmonics. This poetic gesture was interpreted in different ways, depending on who was doing the listening.
For an art-music audience at a venue such as the Kitchen, both Guitar Trio (1977) and Drastic Classicism were vigorous new strains of overtone-based minimalism—lyrical in content and structurally austere—that synthesized two different traditions of music to arrive at a striking new form. On the other hand, in a rock context, I can say with considerable pride that Drastic Classicism was one of the pieces which inspired the noise-rock movement. The sonority of Drastic was so complex that what the musicians in my ensemble were hearing as a kind of viscous, gelatinous sphere of shimmering overtones, the rock community heard as an ear shattering wall-of-sound!
This year Rewire will break with it’s traditional format of presenting adventurous music in a wide range of venues and sites in The Hague early April. Instead, we will be presenting a fully online programme on 6 – 9 May 2021 including several commissioned works, remote collaborations and premieres. In addition, Rewire 2021 will feature a number of offline activities scheduled for Autumn, to be announced at a later stage.
Over four days Rewire will present a multitude of projects and formats that demonstrate the varied ways artists have been creating and performing works under physical restrictions. The festival brings together artists and audience to create and share unique audiovisual and interactive experiences, alongside a discursive programme of talks, workshops and meditations that aims to critically address our festival theme of (Re)setting.
(Re)setting explores processes of change and adaptation as they relate to sound, listening practices and our environment. In an increasingly fraught global context, we are constantly having to reorientate ourselves inside new situations and changing perspectives. Rewire 2021 offers a moment of pause to reflect on our contemporary arrangements, and seeks ways in which we can actively negotiate these structures on our own terms. The theme folds in our current context of the pandemic and how it has affected all aspects of our lives, including our health and our ability to create and connect to one another, as well as exploring the on-going process of Rewire manifesting online.
→ Attend our Facebook Event here.
The first artists and projects announced for Rewire 2021:
Aïsha Devi & 118 present SLF: The Sacred Show*
Alberta Whittle - Reset
Byron Westbrook & Koen Holtkamp present Chromatic Dispersion*
Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy
claire rousay & Morita Vargas*
CS + Kreme & Alessandra Leone*
Cy X presents In Pursuit of Black Noise
Duma & Jesse Kanda*
Dreamcrusher & Andrés Baron*
Félicia Atkinson & Ben Rivers*
Genevieve Murphy presents I Don't Want To Be An Individual On My Own (concert version)*
GLOR1A feat. Alpha Rats - SWARM (prototype 2.0)*
Karen Willems & Machinefabriek*
Lee Gamble - Flush Real Pharynx feat. Clifford Sage
Leo Svirsky & The River Without Banks*
Lisa Hall presents Acts of Air
Maral & Brenna Murphy*
Maria Chavez & Valentina Magaletti*
Masma Dream World
Pierce Warnecke & Matthew Biederman present Somnifacient Signals
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe & Zeena Parkins*
Show Pony & The Rodina*
Sophie Mars presents Mindful Mutations*
Space Afrika & Tibyan Mahawah Sanoh - Untitled (To Describe You)
Tara Clerkin Trio
Wojciech Rusin presents The Funnel
All copies of the April 2021 issue of The Wire will come complete with an exclusive free CD attached to the cover, The Wire Tapper 55, the latest volume in the acclaimed series of new music compilations.
As with previous volumes this CD, which has been compiled by Shane Woolman, Astrud Steehouder and James Gormley, is packaged in a heavy duty card sleeve designed by The Wire's art director Ben Weaver and featuring artwork by Infinite Livez. It contains a range of new, rare or exclusive tracks from across the spectrum of the kind of underground/outsider musics covered in The Wire.
Joao "10 de Novembro" - From Simorgh
Lisbon born drummer João Lobo is a prolific collaborator in groups ranging from Norman and Oba Loba to Mulabanda. He follows his 2017 solo album Nowruz by recruiting guitarist Norberto Lobo and bassist Soet Kempeneer for Simorgh. Named after a phoenix-like bird from Persian mythology, Simorgh was recorded mostly live during summer 2019 at les ateliers claus in Brussels, fusing modal jazz and psychedelic rock in multilayered, sometimes introspective grooves that nod to Miles Davis and Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Aki Onda is not an occultist. Or at least not a professional one.
He stressed this more than once during a Skype interview in July, 2020, just days before moving his home and studio from New York City — where he’s lived for the last 17 years — to Mito in the Japanese prefecture of Ibaraki.
“I’m not into being a cult star. A mystic is fine, but I hate being a cult star,” he said with a laugh — Onda laughs a lot in conversation — but emphatically all the same. “It doesn’t make much money, and it’s connected to being an authority.”
While he’s not a purveyor of the supernatural, Onda is open to such ideas. If he weren’t, he wouldn’t have made — or, rather, wouldn’t have been able to receive — his new album, a collection of messages from the late Korean artist Nam June Paik.
“I always have something that’s hard to explain with language,” he continued. “When I do a performance or when I make something, I always feel like it comes from somewhere else, and I don’t know what it is. It’s something spiritual — but like I said, I don’t like to mystify things. I want to leave it open and share it with other people. I have the system, and I know how it works, but it’s hard to explain.”
Onda’s systems aren’t any easier to explain for the observer. His art is as varied as it is unusual, from experimental projects with the likes of avant-garde cinema virtuoso Ken Jacobs and French jazz guitarist Noël Akchoté to atmospheric, improvised recordings with New York guitarist Alan Licht and Canadian sound- and filmmaker Michael Snow to film and photography, installation and performance.
And Onda, too, is an observer, a filmmaker and photographer, a curator and a freeform documentarian. He deals more in ideas than forms or formats, and ideas come in different shapes and sizes.
Which is where Nam June Paik comes in. Onda had long been an admirer of the multimedia artist Paik, whose work with the New York Fluxus school in the 1960s anticipated installation and video art, and in a sense presaged Onda’s own, eclectic art.
“His work is always interdisciplinary, he always combines different media,” Onda said of Paik. “The way he used imagination interests me. He was really into TV. He can transport ideas, and he doesn’t really care if the meaning behind them changes. He’s elusive, hard to pin down. He uses pop culture, but sometimes his work is really esoteric.”