Danny Clay: metal bells, combs, paper, broken light, piano, music box, marbles, cassette tapes, pebbles, plastic bells, small percussion, transducers, wooden blocks
Matt Atkins: chopstick on drumhead, crowd murmur, drum filled with seeds, dry plant leaves, homemade banjo strings, jingle bell stick, karma piano, large bell, marbles in drum head, newspaper, piano notes on cassette tape, ping pong ball in drum and saucepan lid, plastic packaging, push flute, sheet of paper, small and large bells, cymbals, wind-up toy
Recorded in May 2019 in S. Francisco and London
Released November 29th, 2019
Matt Atkins and Danny Clay provide an experience that is rich in textures which were created from the combination of everyday objects and a few musical instruments. Even though it is an improvised set, every piece has a coherent structure, resulting in an accessible album, one that evades the burdens of the most abstract side of music.
On Sunn O)))’s debut album one could read the now famous quote “Maximum volume yields maximum results” and the intention was pretty obvious: to play the album at a ridiculous high volume to let the sound have its way with the space it was about to occupy, letting the feedback shimmer with glass-shattering strength and make the listeners shiver along with the walls that surrounded them thanks to the aggressively low vibrations. In a nutshell, the goal was to simulate the experience of being in front of a mountain of amplifiers shooting chords on the lowest register a guitar could handle.
Matt Atkins and Danny Clay provide an opposite experience, one that nonetheless, also benefits from the thesis found on VOID ØØ. As title states, An Index of Textures is an album composed of soundpieces rich in textures which were created from the combination of everyday objects and some musical instruments. Turning up the volume on this album won’t make the walls shake or have the speakers emanate engulfing atmospherics, but it will put the listener in the midst of a never-ending swell of nuances that will go from the metallic reverberation from a chiming bell or the crunching sound of dry leaves. It will be like putting each piece under a microscope to find rhythmic and tonal patterns that may go unnoticed once the musical instruments kick in.
Even though we see things like “marbles” or “ping pong ball on a drum and saucepan lid” listed on the credits, the duo avoids falling into the “quirky-artist-that-uses-non-musical-objects-to-create-quirky-music” stereotype, by knowing which features need to be accentuated from each object they use. On “B1”, when the music box starts to play, it doesn’t sound like on those failed attempts CocoRosie had on La Maison de Mon Reve; here, every sound is well integrated into the whole it belongs to and each element complements each other. Even though it is an improvised set, each piece has a coherent structure, resulting in an accessible album, one that evades the burdens of the most abstract side of music.
Index is in the middle ground between ambient, musique concrète and field recordings. One could make the argument that all of those genres go hand in hand -which most of the time they do- but, separately, the have different purposes. It is quite common for and ambient piece to be complemented by field recordings, but the former is not affected for a lack of the latter. Music concrete consists of audio captures, but these become something entirely new upon being rearranged and spliced in a collage. Atkins and Clay present a deeply intimate work with almost no editing, a dynamic use of timbre and an unnerving sense of loneliness. The level on intimacy is such that it feels as if the artists are completely isolated and this is the only thing they can do to pass the time. It reminds me of that scene from La Nuit a Dévoré le Monde in which the main character starts creating music with every object he has within his grasp. It is beauty being born out of melancholy.
The presence of a piano makes the album steer away from being a completely abstract experience; it anchors us to reality with the timid figures it plays, which sound broken and distant -almost alien- but with a familiar cadence (there are instances in which the instrument gives the impression of being a sample from that passage on Godspeed’s “Gathering Storm”) ensuring that the listener will have a smooth ride while listening to this album.
Many will have their position in regards as to why these kind of works should not be considered music and will -in a myriad of ways- justify their almost knee-jerk response to describe their experience as futile or boring. It may be due to the fact that going deep into those small details that surround us on a daily basis may proof to be exhaustive and overwhelming, like an overdose of reality; it’ll probably have to do with the cognitive dissonance that generates when someone is exposed to aural stimuli without a visual point of reference, or it will be simply because we’re so used to the musical patterns popular music has bestowed upon us. But, if we can enjoy reality shows or react videos -videos of people reacting to things we have experienced ourselves- why does this aversion towards listening to everyday sounds in a different context exist?
Someone please cast a spell and make Baudrillard rise from his grave, as I lack the intelligence to give a proper conclusion to this review. Hopefully he won’t charge that much…
Un microcosmo di particelle in crepitante movimento che disegnano materici bozzetti in costante evoluzione. Ha una spiccata consistenza tattile la materia sonica cesellata da Danny Clay e Matt Atkins, una spigolosa vividezza che diviene costante di una preziosa raccolta di trame risonanti.
Combinando frammenti percussivi a suoni trovati e riverberi acustici i due musicisti danno origine ad una affascinante sequenza di paesaggi pervasi da danzanti stille sonore che concorrono a creare un incantato universo colmo di luce e calore, a tratti estaticamente meditabondo.
Spesso relegato ad una durata breve che rimanda ad un carattere effimero che le composizioni trasmettono, il flusso diviene nella sua ultima cristallizzazione narrazione dilatata che ingloba le diverse atmosfere fin qui plasmate che riassumono le sfaccettature di un viaggio interamente affidato alla forza immaginifica del dettaglio.
More and more we see Matt Atkins expanding his work to other labels, as well as working with other people. Here he teams up with Danny Clay. From him, I heard two previous works, one with Stijn Hüwels and one with Greg Gorlen. On this tape, he plays “metal bells, combs, paper, broken light, piano, music box, marbles, cassette tapes, pebbles, plastic bells, small percussion, transducers, wooden blocks”, while Atkins goes for “chopstick on drumhead, crowd murmur, drum filled with seeds, dry plant leaves, homemade banjo strings, jingle bell stick, karma piano, large bell, marbles in drum head, newspaper, piano notes on cassette tape, ping pong ball in drum and saucepan lid, plastic packaging, push flute, sheet of paper, small and large bells, cymbals, wind-up toy”. There are two places mentioned as recording locations, San Francisco and London, so I have no idea if this is the result of playing together or sending sound files through the Internet. One instrument sticks out here and that is the piano. Whereas all the rest is present somehow, somewhere, sometime, the piano makes its appearance in most of these six tracks, striking a chord, playing a careful melody. It sounds as recorded in the living room, with its spatial quality. It is an instrument that is set quite differently from the rest of the sound material, but quite rightly so I would think. It makes a fine change in the otherwise rumble tumble of the rest. There are lots of small sounds to be here, objects being shaken around, stirred and going through effects, all-making up a delicate web of sounds. It very much fits the sound world of Atkins, but that’s perhaps because I know his work more than I know Clay’s. It is very much the result of improvising first and editing later. One can’t say this is purely improvised music; it is also electro-acoustic, it is also musique concrete, it is also field recordings and even ambient music. There is a fine tranquil aspect to the music here, the piano perhaps; the electronics may be and there is a delicate approach to hitting, striking, brushing and whatever of all the objects. At thirty-two minutes on the short side sadly.