objects of memory, line imprint
track 1, excerpt
from the label press release:
beneath the fabricating and universal writing of technology, opaque and stubborn places remain . . . hidden in customs, rites, and spatial practices . . . only fragments in language . . . like the deteriorating pages of a book
– Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life
These works occupy a position between an expanded notion of composition and a gallery-based art practice. The content of the works presented on this disc produce a slow series of gestures that give the illusion of stillness amidst a texture of continually developing material. The central concern in all of these pieces (the three fully scored works, the installation documentation, and the live-performance) is the construction of a sound world that is able to be environmental rather than temporal, proceeding slowly enough that it might be explored without the anxiety that it will move away too quickly. Like much of my output, I am interested in providing the listener with material that allows for an active agency of perception and that affords the ability to move through the sound autonomously. Whether the work is gallery-based, conceptual, or created for a concert hall, I am interested in viewing simple, everyday actions at extreme magnification, acknowledging failure by amplifying impossible tasks, and exploring the role of memory in forms that respect the contract between the composer, performer, and listener.
1. objects in stillness
for bassoon, viola, guitar, percussion, and four sine tones (2006). 07:26
2. a radiance scored with shadow
for amplified paper, bowed vibraphone, bass drum, and compressed air (2007). 08:19
3. a murmur which redoubles
for three guitars, electric bass, and four sine tones (2006). 07:18
4. doleros (audio tourism at ringing rocks)
reclaimed building materials, steel, baler twine, speaker cones, light, and 12.1-channel audio (2008). 19:35
5. untitled (objects of memory)
cassette dictaphones, circuit-modified portable cassette player, controlled feedback, and computer-generated and vocally-produced sine tones (2009). 26:03
1-3: recorded by Alex Kass at Taplin Auditorium, Fine Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ. 1: Clogs: Bryce Dessner, Rachael Elliot, Thomas Kozumplik, and Padma Newsome. 2: So Percussion: Douglas Perkins, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting, and Lawson White. 3: Catch Guitar Quartet: Wiek Hijmans, Seth Josel, Patricio Wang, and Mark Haanstra. 4: audio documentation of installation at Diapason Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. 5: live performance at NYC Sound Festival, Centre d’Arts Plastiques Contemporains/Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France.
**Serene ambient/drone tapestry from acclaimed New York sound artist** The field he operates in is a crowded one, but New York artist Seth Cluett’s latest is executed with enough skill and feeling to stand out from the pack. On ‘Objects In Stillness’ snatches of bassoon, viola and guitar whisper and whine across a Spartan backdrop of sine tones, conjuring rural landscapes caught between seasons. ‘A Murmur Which Redoubles’ stretches out further into minimalist abstraction, summoning the work of Cluett’s label-mate Richard Charthier, while ‘Doleros (Audio Tourism At Ringing Rocks) combines frost-bitten drones with field recorded percussion – it’s like eavesdropping on an ice age tribe fashioning weapons from wood and stone; industrial ambient for weather-beaten neanderthal man. ‘Untitled (Objects Of Memory)’ rounds out the package with a painstaking, time-stopping accumulation of tones that’s striking in its delicacy and discipline. No fireworks here, just beautifully tremulous and thoughtful explorations of electro-acoustic sound. Fans of Oren Ambarchi’s Touch albums and Fennesz at his most plaintive would do well to check this out. boomkat
The sense of cohesion throughout this release is strong. Despite being comprised of three studio pieces, an installation documentation and a live performance (and utilizing a fresh set of sound sources in the construction of each), all of these works arrive at the same atmospheric landscape: an anxious mix of creeping activity, gently nudging tranquility and stillness ever so slightly out of joint.The first three pieces are the shortest and arguably the most immediate. “A Radiance Scored With Shadow” is a particularly provocative work – the sound of people stripping gigantic strips of wallpaper in a cavernous warehouse, punctuated by intermittent, bellowing bass drum thuds, and disrupted by an abrupt hiss of compressed air that rips cruelly through the gentle unfolding of sound. It’s the overall sense of emptiness that brings significance to the slightest of gestures, placing every timbral detail under the intense light of focus. But the 20-minute installation documentation of “Doleros (Audio Tourism At Ringing Rocks)” is perhaps the most unsettled of these pieces – a tangle of low drones contorts slowly, as though awkwardly tilting the soundscape on its axis, with the hollow clang of scaffolding poles rattling precariously against each other. It’s a giddying experience, settling the listener off balance like a crippling bout of vertigo. “Untitled” completes the album with layers of overlapping feedback, eternally shifting in shape over the course of its 26 minutes. Objects Of Memory is like the initial unrest that indicates the imminence of something terrible – the slightest rustle of activity that breathes ominous life and caution into a stagnant silence. A beautifully made record. Jack Chuter, ATTM:Magazine
A prototypical Line artist, Seth Cluett, whose work has been shown and performed in museums and galleries in places such as Paris, New York, and Boston, uses minimal yet sometimes obscure materials (one of the CD’s pieces uses building materials, steel, baler twine, and speaker cones as sound sources) to produce intensely micro-detailed settings that manage to be both tranquil and unnerving at the same time. Though the pieces develop gradually, suggesting stillness on the one hand, they’re never static but are constantly developing in subtle ways that might be missed by an inattentive listener. There’s an attunement between the pace at which the material mutates and the listener’s attentiveness that feels natural, or perhaps it’s that it begins to feel that way as the listener adjusts him/herself to the sound design as it unfolds.
For the sixty-eight-minute recording, three relatively short concert hall performances by Clogs, So Percussion, and Catch Guitar Quartet recorded at Princeton University are followed by two long-form pieces, the first an installation piece and the last a live performance. Don’t let the presence of groups on the opening pieces mislead you: they’re not robust improvs but introspective, fully scored explorations that find the participants collectively operating with restraint at a microsound level where every note signifies. “Objects in Stillness” couples four sine tones and materials generated from bassoon, viola, guitar, and percussion in a seven-minute setting whose intense, drone-like surges keep the piece in an ongoing state of tension. The allusive and ethereal sound mass produced in “A Radiance Scored With Shadow” originates from conventional and less conventional instruments, the former bowed vibraphone and bass drum and the latter amplified paper and compressed air. Given such materials, the result is about as mysterious and evocative as one would expect, with the bowed vibraphone and bass drum asserting themselves as atmospheric presences while the other elements enhance the textural character of the soundscape. “A Murmur Which Redoubles” may be scored for a mini-guitar army but the three six-strings and electric bass thread themselves in fragmented and oblique manner in alongside the piece’s four sine tones.
An audio documentation taken from an installation at Brooklyn’s Diapason Gallery, “Doleros (Audio Tourism at Ringing Rocks)” uses the aforementioned building materials, steel, baler twine, and speaker cones (along with light and 12.1-channel audio) to generate a twenty-minute, electro-acoustic dronescape of textural interplay. Everything unspools in relaxed manner until the escalation of a background pitch at the sixteen-minute mark not only injects an element of unease into the proceedings but also brings about some degree of hyperactivity in the clink and clatter constellating around it. The most sedate of the CD’s five settings, “Untitled (Objects of Memory)” uses cassette dictaphones, circuit-modified portable cassette player, controlled feedback, and computer-generated and vocally-produced sine tones to create twenty-six minutes of ebb and flow whose overall calm is as immersive as a warm bath. In toto, Objects of Memory will be manna from heaven, so to speak, for Line devotees, even if the two longer pieces are more geared towards hard-core aficionados of the microsound genre. The concision of the opening trio of pieces, on the other hand, enables them to form an easier and more accessible entry-point into Cluett’s world. Ezekiel Honig, Textura
Much of Seth Cluett’s Objects of Memory seems intentionally distanced, obscured and opaque, cloaked in aural cotton wool. ‘Objects in Stillness’ for example explores a fixed set of tonal patterns, akin to the more refined studies of Alvin Lucier, but the pure sine tones begin to fade, washed out by competitively pitched gestures from bassoon, viola and guitar. These sustained lines are punctuated by sparse, routine pulses on percussion, lending the drones a hint of portentousness, but the hazy ghostliness of it all ensures it remains warm and approachable.
‘A Murmur Which Redoubles’ for three guitars, electric bass and four sine tones is similarly elusive, the guitars threading snakelike through the sines, creating flickering traces like Akira Rabelais’s Benediction, Draw, and favouring suspended Satie-esque anti-resolutions. ‘A Radiance Scored with Shadow’ is more oblique, barely audible rustlings and gasps produced by amplified paper and compressed air.
The final two pieces take up the majority of the disc at 20 and 26 minutes a piece, and adhere more closely to traditional electro-acoustic drone structure. ‘Doleros’ features the clink and click of bricks, twine, speaker cones and ‘light’, tapping along to an industrial tinged hum. ‘Untitled (Objects of Memory)’ creates a similar extended workout from cassette dictaphones and players, feedback and ‘computer-generated and vocally-produced’ sine tones, although the hum is richer and warmer, contracting and expanding like the sea. These pieces are engaging but the earlier three, combining the malleability of Rabelais with the patience and restraint of Feldman, are extraordinary. Joshua Meggitt, cyclic defrost