Joe Foster, Hong Chulki, Takahiro Kawaguchi and Ryu Hankil Oscillation.Vacillation
Balloon and Needle

It’s too fucking cold today.

When I go running, the hair in my nose freezes, and icicles collect in my beard that has grown, grown past most polite company’s standards. My knees have begun to hurt in mysterious places, between joints I didn‘t know I had. Maybe I shouldn’t over do it. But there’s something… A needling in my head that sets me out. Out there. I move across the room. And music plays.

Something about Oscillation.Vacillation by musicians Joe Foster, Hong Chulki, Takahiro Kawaguchi and Ryu Hankil creates a movement in my environment, makes something shift and switch gears. The album seems rooted but full of motion: it begins with dry room fuzz than gives way ringing sounds, oily clicks, clock machinations; a gentle sine wave or low tone emerges periodically and weaves itself into the shifting layers. There’s a stasis to this recording, almost approaching a monotony, but the sounds are too varied, too uncomfortable with their own space to sit too long and fester. On the first track around the 6:20 mark a sour screech of malfunctioning electronics asserts itself, and punctures a hole in the mass and slate. At unwary moments I can find myself pulled almost directly out my skin by that sound. But after a minute it sinks back into the vaguely percussive sounds, of varying scrapes and rubs. Many of these sounds approach a percussive quality; there’s a fascination with repeated gesture rather than an element of time keeping, which creates an odd momentum. It’s as though you find yourself in a workshop full of mechanical birds, fluttering on skeletal metal wings covered in vellum; and leaning back, gently spinning in a squeaking chair, you push a hand through your hair.

You could attach an element of pure chance to this recording. As though it were all simply incidental, but as you sit, immerse yourself in it, you realize there’s a constant shifting, a playing to the scrapes and clatter. It’s varied, embroiled in a clear movement and change. To hear sounds repeat themselves in this manner, not in a drone exactly, but in a repetitive mechanical fashion it can appear to be music without human input–that one simply sets up a machine and lets it roll along on it‘s own. But I don’t find that here exactly, even if there is an element of simply letting devices out of their cages, to flutter their wings for a bit, there’s still a direction given, a definite interaction and communication here between all sounds. Even if this communication results in collision and wreckage; it‘s there, intelligent, slightly coercive. It would be easy to stop listening actively, as I did when I first heard it, and to fixate on only one element like the clockwork sounds, as they are most easily integrated and held onto to. These sounds remind me of Sachiko M’s sine waves, and how they set down a field or space that seems to define other sounds, placing them into a structure. It’s really fascinating how one hears, what one latches onto… the clockwork does work as an element of structure and the familiar. And this textured music requires some handhold at times, a limb to grasp once in while lest one tumbles from the tree. There’s a whole world that is possibly missed if that‘s all that‘s heard, and in a way this clockwork disguises a multitude of interactions. Sounds emerge and disappear suddenly, clattering is replaced by staccato thwacks, smacks and chaotic tumbles. It breathes naturally, although not without elements of disparity, of wrong turns, voids that open under feet. Near the end of the second track noisy feedback breaks free–vital, but ugly.

With albums such as these, I find it a bit silly to concentrate on where these sounds come from, or who creates them– Hong Chulki is credited with, “turntable without cartridge;” Takahiro Kawaguchi with, “remodeled counters, selfmade objects, tuning fork;” Ryu Hankil with, “Speaker and piezo vibration;” while Joe Foster is not credited with anything at all, but I assume it could range from electronics to trumpet. With instrumentation of such novelty, of such seemingly secretive means it doesn’t really lend itself towards explication of the music. Knowing Ryu Hankil plays a speaker doesn’t help me grasp this like an album made up of sax/trumpet/bass/drums might. And knowing there are “self made objects” being played, massaged, prodded, or turned on in Oscillation.Vacillation doesn’t create any enjoyment in itself, In fact, it’s a little distracting, although that’s more my problem than anything. But I do sometimes wonder if some of us are more interested in what is used to make albums than the actual sounds themselves, that in the rush to disassociate from some lineage, the most obscure and novel are valued over the actual results, of the music itself. But what is remarkable about these musicians is not what they used to make these sounds but how they used them. As much as one wants to give credit where it’s due, I really don’t know if one musician could take more credit for this evocative music than any other. It defies expectations of the requisite strangeness of instrumentation, of the bullshit sound art more concerned with means than ends it could so easily become. No, it’s an album of great interaction, not without seams or fraying, but one that repays repeated engagement and investigation, in its slow fused energy; its pocket of movement.

I get up and cross the room and listen. I’m urged to, into, from… My shoes are wearing down on the sides. I contemplate running; darkness; the windowpane.

Nah, it’s too fucking cold.

balloon and needle


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: