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Francisco Meirino & Tim Olive - Eagle Keys

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Artist: Francisco Meirino & Tim Olive

Album: Eagle Keys

Label: Even Stilte

Review date: Jul. 19, 2007

Eagle Keys is a collaborative project from Osaka-based experimental bassist Tim Olive and computer/acoustic artist Francisco Meirino (aka Phroq). Meirino's past works, starting in 1994, are computer-based electro-acoustic pieces, exploring the combination of programmed and "chaotic" sounds. Tim Olive has been active for even longer, from noise-rock to his more recent soundscapes. While he's credited here with electric bass, you wouldn't know it without being told.

This CD is divided into two tracks, titled simply parts One and Two. The first, and longest at 34 minutes, opens with quiet cracklings and droning strings, interrupted by sporadic gurgling and scraping sounds. Factory-like buzzings and the sounds of machines toiling at some unknown purpose come and go. The duo conjure a mysterious place filled with noises that, while prickly, aren't coldly artificial nor forbiddingly harsh. These are small sounds, made audible.

Even knowing what I do of the artists, it's hazardous to guess at who's doing what. But I would guess that Meirino's more often than not providing the more solid acoustics, while Olive throws in the chattering squeaks and rattles. While the combinations may often feel haphazard, there are more than enough synchronous moments that make it clear how well the two are listening to each other.

It's not all just freestyle scrape and drone, either. Towards the end of the first part, there's a combination of distorted scree and glacial tones that's like a weird mix of Organum and Skullflower, both peaceful and head-slapping. From there, it builds slow but inexorably toward a fascinating conclusion that's equal parts Merzbow and AMM, with plucked string sounds cleanly shining through a dense wall of noise.

The second part follows a similar modus operandi; while it's not immediately clear why it's divided from the first part, it is a fairly self-contained piece with a particular personality. In any case, it offers another 15 minutes of work, marred only by a preponderance of high-pitched tones that I found a bit annoying and difficult to listen to (though I'll admit to being particularly susceptible to high frequencies).

Adorned with a sleeve featuring nice work by Canadian artist Marc Bell, Eagle Keys offers a fine collaboration that takes good advantage of the differing audio palettes of Meirino and Olive, as well as their abilities to listen and interact.

By Mason Jones

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