Often, music journalists will comment, "You can only imagine how good they are live." As an editor once drilled into my head, this is lazy writing, but I get it: the band is playing something so sensational that you want to see the faces and hands and sweat churning out this fantasy; you want to be in the space and feel the warmth and electricity of waves and molecules banging off the walls; the synergy of visual and aural will be the perfect experience!
On the contrary with artists working in the experimental realm of, for lack of a better term, sound sculpting, I find myself leaning in the opposite direction: the musical magic is created with a blindfold and imagination burning bright due to the mystery and difficult-to-spot colors (like that party game where you put your hand in a bag and identify what you're touching). For example, Lee Patterson makes a career out of amplified street sweeper tines and burning pinecones; Jeph Jerman often performs in his kitchen with objects from the kitchen; Kiyoharu Kuwayama (aka Lethe) stumbling around and dragging refuse through an abandoned Japanese port is ear tingling, as are Toshimaru Nakamura's no-input mixer tones. To really appreciate the mystique of artistry, I prefer to leave these wizards behind the curtain, close my eyes, block out distractions and let the sound wash over me. It's my ticket to something bigger than what I know (maybe this is a hangover of too much science fiction and role playing games as a kid).
And that's my thought on all of Tim Olive's efforts: with an amplified one-stringed "guitar", he explores a tactile intimacy through caressed and coaxed thumps, muted squeals, moans, gurgles, plucks, power-ups, roars and springing reflections that produce unique sonic environments! Working analog, his altered reality is meditative and sort of spooky; if you heard his sounds coming from the basement, you might suspect ghosts, or wild boar, or someone dragging your water heater across a metal plate.
Olive also has the good fortune to know a cadre of likeminded artists whose illusionary craft seamlessly melds together with his, as is the case with Dominion Mills (see also the recent collaborations with Jason Kahn, Two Sunrise, and Katsura Mouri, Various Histories). Over the course of three extended pieces, Olive works with Montréal-based Anne-F(rançoise) Jacques, someone concerned with "erratic sound production devices" and "low technology", and whose ensemble is listed as "rotating objects". A glance at her website reveals various instruments, such as a sardine can soldered to wire and springs, a cassette recorder whose reels are stuffed with pipe cleaners and a whiffle ball hooked to a chain, a bell jar lid and a smaller whiffle ball. In other words, Rube Goldberg has nothing on her.
Together, the duo offers a mesmerizing set of breaking pulses and a variety of wooden, almost-repetitive dragging clusters that sound as a lumbering...thing, traipsing across various isolated locales. Dominion Mills is an inventive affair based in creativity, not gear that comes out of a box (unless you count a box behind a hardware store dumpster). Jacques sets in motion her clamoring gadgets alongside Olive's contained feedback and skronks. The two ebb and flow: parts of their machine fleck off, processes die out only to be crossfaded with new rattles, circulating murmurs and polyrhythm. The album is rich in subtlety and detail, particularly with Jacques' palette of "what, how?" combinations of materials that produce myriad scrapings and tiny to booming resonances (see the middle four minutes of "Part 21" for an example of this lurching wagon train).
A professor of mine once told me, "I make slow music because the world is too fast and I want it to calm down." I get a similar feeling when listening to this record: the world is really big, slick and aiming to eliminate anomaly via technological discovery, but small and simple are tried and true, refreshing and rife with sensory-prickling results.
Comments and Feedback: