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Andrew Hodson / Alec Finlay - Dancemusic / Dancetrace

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Artist: Andrew Hodson / Alec Finlay

Album: Dancemusic / Dancetrace

Label: Platform Projects

Review date: Apr. 30, 2006

This is a concept LP built entirely from sounds generated by dancers performing classes in ballet, contemporary, native styles and experimental techniques. These field recordings of feet on vinyl, breaths, squeaks and claps were lifted from Newcastle upon Tyne’s Dance City studios with two omnidirectional mics.

The concept of capturing the visual sound of dance was Alec Finlay’s (artist, poet and publisher), but the sampling, arrangements and music were created by the Matinee Orchestra’s Andrew Hodson. The audio here is clearly split between brief pieces of source material and the manipulated musical compositions born of these sounds. The idea of ‘music’ built from field recordings certainly isn’t a new one, but the idea of using the inconsequential by-product of dancing is. The sounds of feet on floor are normally an incidental accompaniment that gets tuned out by the spectator, and much has been done to minimise these ‘interruptions.’ Here, the field recordings (there are over 20 on the disc) offer up much more than a glimpse at Hodson’s compositional DNA. These brief clips generate a real air of physicality due to the proximity of the microphones and recording process.

Many of these pieces are given the title of the dance being performed and it’s surprisingly possible to discern the style through just listening to the sounds. There’s little possibility of confusion in the unmistakably-flowing stilted stamps of “DT Salsa (solo),” or the reverberating clatter of “DT Irish dance (Helen Driver, heavy reel).”

The actual songs here (“DM Part I” through to “DM Part XVI”) are more overtly electronic than Hodson’s work under the Matinee Orchestra moniker, though he still manages to create similarly joyous, lively creations that merge organic sounds with digital manipulation. His refusal to take the easy option of resting on the structural safety of rhythmic loops means the pieces feel more alive than just melodies trapped inside an authoritarian beat. As he states in the liner notes, he didn’t want to impose a strict uniformity and repetition on the inherent fluidity of performed dance.

Hodson easily skirts any sort of simple genre classification slipping from popping percussion and cutesy alien synth squelch on “DM Part VI” to Soft Pink Truth metallicisms of “DM Part VIII.” It’s very easy to imagine these tracks having a life of their own as musical pieces outside the dance concept. The simplicity of hooks on “DM Part VI,” evocative of a less-commercial Neptunes, leaves plenty of space for a possible MC to jump aboard. There’s actual movement beyond the linear groove in the tug o’ war of its bumpy techno and live beats.

The most obvious use of source material is on “DM Part VI,” which alchemizes the squeaks and swooshes of “DT Contemporary (Simon Birch).” The song takes its subterranean bassline from the weighty creaking and this is a perfect example of Hodson’s ability to make something musical from something utterly disposable.

By Scott McKeating

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