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A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth
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A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth
  • Headphone Commute’s Best of 2016 : Music For Bending Light And Stopping Time

  • On this album, sound artist Robert Crouch constructs his slowly developing drones from sounds sourced from modular synthesizers. This album sounds absolutely nothing like most modular synth albums, however. He’s still using digital processes to stretch out and transform the sounds. It creates a sort of intersection where analog roughness and digital glitch collide. “Hohle Fels” is the clearest drone, the others get a lot rougher, and go through more changes. Some of the pieces (such as “3184 Pullman, Costa Mesa, 1974”) seem to develop a sort of trembling rhythm. “Potbelly Hill” is definitely the busiest, it seems to claustrophobically shift rapidly. Even while it feels contained the point of severe restriction, it has a sort of accepting calmness, and seems to hit some bliss-out frequencies along the way.

  • …a fascinating collection of minimalist drones…

  • The Los Angeles sound artist Robert Crouch proposes these five tracks as being the result of production that was arrived at through the act of listening. Tone from his modular synth systems were recorded with the patch bay networks intentionally forgotten so that only the sound became of import; then Crouch dilated these ‘re-discovered’ sounds into slow-dissolve / moire-patterned drones of closely aligned harmonic layers richly fizzing with digital dissonance. These pieces announce their physical presence and hold their ground with a subtle plasticity to their sonic architecture. There is a detached, amnotic fluidity evident in Crouch’s work which is also found in much of the Pop Ambient compilations over the years. Luminous sound pooling abounds.

  • It is fair to say that Robert Crouch has injected some major conceptualism into A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth.  The overarching theme, outlined in the title, is how locations can develop histories that never existed based simply on someone’s insistence they happened, a process akin to that of meaning devised by method of symbolic interactionism.  That concept applies appropriately to the recorded material as well:  a series of compositions based upon modular synthesis that largely avoids the now cliché bleeps and bloops and instead results in lush passages of electronics that form their own little worlds.

    The conceptual linkage of the idea to the composition appears in the way in which Crouch created recordings via his modular synthesizer, but purposely only captured them via digital stereo recordings.  Rather than making notes of the setup, he instead devised the patches and performance in such a way that he could not recreate them, and thus had only the final product to work with.  Much like the architectural concept, he had only the final ideas to base the “truth” of this recording on.

    The results of these ephemeral synth arrangements run the gamut from gentle to raw and significant ground in between.  “Hohle Fels” is one of the more placid pieces; beginning with gliding tones and light wisps of air painting a warm, open landscape.  The tones slowly become lower register, casting a darker shadow, as the piece drifts to its conclusion.  The warm tones are reprised on “Limbo Town (Croatoan)”, but Crouch melds this darker drift with lightly crackling textures.  The dissonance builds, and is eventually replaced with dour electronics that sound like a clearer passage from an old MB record.

    “3184 Pullman, Costa Mesa, 1974” features Crouch working with more texture than tone.  A bit of dissonant buzz and icy, frozen sheets of sound creep through like glaciers.  Noises of what could pass for radio interference appear, with an almost rhythmic quality to them that contrasts the static and cold done very well.  “Bellona  (Version 0-375-70668-2)” has Crouch employing a more overt bitcrusher-like effect to excellent effect.  Its idiosyncratic distortion adds to the oddly intersecting layers.  Eventually it is transitioned back to a rich, full-bodied sound, but for a period it sounds as if it is emanating from a deep, dank basement.

    The concluding “Potbelly Hill” begins with what could almost be mistaken for a droning electric guitar, sustained and frequently processed.  It is an extremely dynamic piece, even though it is largely built around that shimmering tone.  Crouch builds the intensity and then scales it back, blending together abstraction with almost melodic passages, closing the album on a gentle, peaceful note.

    There is an odd mood throughout A Gradual Accumulation…; a sound that is ominous, but never off-putting.  Coupled with Crouch’s use of spacious tones and subtle layering, he definitely achieves that architectural effect he was aiming for.  The depth and mood conveyed in each of these pieces results in a theme, or almost a field recording, for a space that may have never existed.

  • Robert Crouch is a serious artist, with talk of ‘a conversation between tonality, context, history and subjectivities’ casually tossed off. It’s not all talk, though. Some cloak their creations in Art Bollocks, but ‘the intersection of post-phenomenological listening practices, conceptual sound art, and contemporary electronic music’ is in fact revelatory here. Crouch is no slouch, his talk of ‘archaeological spaces and their relationship to documentation, evidence, and media, and how meaning is produced’ is walked. ‘By placing my own practice within this frame, I was also able to refigure the act of listening as a method of production.’ His finding—that archaeology is cultural construction as much as a process of recovery, finds expression in A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth. Long form modular synth improvisations were retrieved, patches created from them, dismantled after recording, and archived. Recuperated later, rendered sound objects, they’re modular crude for digital refinement at a site of negotiation between analog grain and digital glitch. The five resulting sound slabs bespeak endless expanses, Rothko-esque smears static/sliding, serene/uneasy. “Hohle Fels” is purest in texture; the rest are rougher, protean. “3184 Pullman, Costa Mesa, 1974” even has traces of errant rhythm; “Potbelly Hill” is febrile, subject to quixotic shifts. A kind of calm, more stunned than blissed, attends. Like his Organs (Dragon’s Eye, 2015), these pulse’n’atmo-dronescapes are configured for armchair-voyagers. Discreetly psychoactive.

  • Synesthésie, méta-stase et réalité augmentée.

    Sa proximité avec des personnes telles Yann Novak ou Richard Chartier, ainsi que leurs labels respectifs Dragon’s Eye Recordings et Line, ne peuvent pas prêter à confusion sur les relations que Robert Crouch entretient avec la musique. C’est d’ailleurs sur ce dernier que A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth paraît, pérennant des explorations sonores balançant entre microsound et drone, mettant le traitement sonore en abîme et repensant les notions d’enregistrement et de création qui lui sont associées : faire, défaire, et surtout oublier pour refaire différemment. Mais contrairement à beaucoup de sorties de Line, ce qui m’a séduit sur cet album n’est pas l’abstraction extrême, parfois extravagante, de ses sons, mais au contraire un minimalisme étonnamment organique et viscéral, comme le Days de Triac l’avait déjà achevé l’année dernière.

    Bien que le concept fondateur de l’opus s’articule autour de l’être factuel d’un objet et de son paraître imaginé et provoqué, on semble invités à travers les cinq longues méditations offertes par l’artiste à repenser la manière de ressentir la musique. Les origines des enregistrements utilisés comme échantillons sonores sont transcendées et provoquent en l’auditeur des sentiments eux aussi mutés, presque surnaturels ; une synesthésie polymorphe se manifeste alors naturellement en nous, nous faisant découvrir les pistes en réalité augmentée. Hohle Fels ou Limbo Town (Croatoan) développent particulièrement bien cette impression de vie tirée du néant, à peine camouflée derrière les immenses strates sonores glissant entre elles à la manière de draps aux textures liquides oscillant dans le vent, utilisant des cousins du bruit blanc qui émuleront leurs lentes respirations. Une fausse impression d’immobilité s’exprime progressivement, comme c’est souvent le cas dans le drone, révélant aux gens attentifs et patients un péristaltisme sonore qui surprendra à chaque écoute par l’apparition perçue de nouveaux éléments, renouvellant son expérience à travers des expérience a priori pourtant prédéfinies et reproductibles.

    Ces traits de caractères favorisent l’apparition de sensations inhabituelles, dépassent la simple écoute stéréo initialement imaginée. Ici, les sinusoïdes qui s’enlacent et se fragmentent stimulent les aires visuelles, dessinant dans les esprits tordus des paysages trichromes aux éléments indistincts et aux bordures floues, mais dans lesquels on détecte en plissant un peu ses yeux virtuels un mouvement discret mais constant. Bien que les glitchs discrets ponctuent notre écoute et ont l’air de nous murmurer que tout ceci n’est qu’un délire personnel et qu’il est temps de revenir à la réalité, on ne pourra pas quitter la chaleur audio-vidéo-tactile émergeant de A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth, en particulier Bellona (Version 0-375-70668-2) et sa minuscule oasis de verdure perdue dans un désert aussi aride qu’accueillant. Le dépaysement est immédiat au lancement de la lecture et persiste sans ciller durant plus d’une heure, où les sens sont exploités d’une manière peu habituelle, ne rendant l’expérience que plus délectable de par sa singularité.

    Voir la musique au lieu de seulement l’écouter, ne pas utiliser les sons pour ce qu’ils sont mais pour ce qu’ils peuvent encore devenir. Ajoutez n’importe quel suffixe à méta- correspondant à des concepts abscons oscillant autour de réalité et de virtualité, et vous pourrez tenter de résumer (bien trop facilement) cet album selon Robert Crouch. Personnellement, c’est une de ces surprises venant de chez Line qui me pousse inlassablement à revenir vers le label, proposant cette fois une expérience ne sollicitant aucun prérequis afin d’être appréciée pour ce qu’elle est : un voyage au-delà du réel, brouillant les frontières mentales et nous rassurant face à l’inconnu.

  • Comprised of five lengthy tracks first created on a modular synth, the subsequent mixes then used as raw material for the eventual compositions, these studies in ‘drone’/sound sculpture/pulse minimalism make for a cathartic inner-ear experience; their Rothko-esque brushstrokes evoke images of endless expanse & sliding, gliding places, passive/aggressive in equal measure, ‘anti-noise’, if you will. Superbly mastered by Lawrence English.
    (darren bergstein)