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Angel - nr.1 - nr.10

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Artist: Angel

Album: nr.1 - nr.10

Label: Bip-Hop

Review date: Mar. 2, 2003

Cerebral Shouting Signifying What?

Improvised noise scratching welts down your thighs—direct to the soundstream that had been implanted deep beneath your skin—later that night you board the bus amidst the clatter of metallic carrier pigeons beating back the tidal clouds of radioactive waste on the outskirts of the city.

— This could be the beginning of a hallucinated cyberpunk novel, a dreamworld of the post-apocalypse of poetic pharmaceuticals. But sadly it remains, on this improvised noise and harsh soundscape album, only a dream.

For every album has its dream. A dream that conjures a dream in the listener. There is a dream of what the album desires to become, to be in its perfection. And then there's the reality of the dream, its transference to us, here, in the act of listening. Even PR men have their dreams. An entire network of dreams in music, in sound: and especially in experimental and live improvisation. There is the dream of the press release:

A dream of two "soulbrothers" (says the press release) meeting for an annual improv live show in Berlin. The recording is an unedited tour through the noisy, scratchy, growling trajectories of these two sound artists: Ilpo Väisänen (Finland) and Dirk Dresselhaus (Germany). Both are not new to chambers of chaos and distorted disorder: which leads me to ask: at what point does this not sound amateur?

The press release stunts the question; I can barely ask it. The PR tells me:

"This album is a non edited live-recording and much more about direct communication, listening to what the other one does and reacting to it, rather than a 'brain'-piece, which is supposed to be intellectual or cool in attitude."

I don't usually quote press releases. But here it forms a remainder of the dream text.

Let's take this as the intent (it could be questioned). If this is a body piece, a piece of sound that has the "direct and communicational" ability to react body-to-body between self and other, why does it sound so atypically "noisy"—complete with distorted breakbeat solos, and feedback squelches over bass drop-outs? The sound is characteristically aggressive and lacking in subtlety: if this is a body-communication, then surely it is one of the dominant body. It is a communication not of listening from one to the other, but of one or the other's desire to annihilate and destroy the other through a one-upmanship of screaming distortion. From basic (and distorted) IDM beats to extended wall-of-noise guitar solos, the "direct communication" achieved between one and other—and between listener and sound—is one with no feedback. There is no caress, no touch, between Ilpo and Dirk, just as there is no ability to engage the the music "intellectually." Let's look at this again.

When the press release attempts to explain how this is not a "brain" piece, it assumes, rather ad hoc, that there are "brain pieces" and "body pieces," and that these are separate, that, in fact, there is no communication between body and brain. We could call this an aggressively enforced classical dualism, but that would be a mistake: it is not a mind/body problem which is explored sonically in this release, but rather the complete otherness and lack of communication between body and brain, and perhaps ultimately—because "direct communication" is enforced through a series of strictures—between listener and sound. One hears a continual reinforcement of the myth of "direct communication," when all that confronts us is the avoidance of just such a sonography. If there is "direct communication," it fails to communicate—and fails to attempt to incorporate "within" communication—the always-already merger of body and brain in the sonic gesture of sound, the hearing and inscription of sound in the body, the very realisation that words are sounds, that writing is, perhaps, music; that the experience of listening, of turning to the hear and the now, is one of the becoming-ear of the body.

What I feel in my body from Angel is a sensory assault that blankets a transaction from ears to words. A barely remembered nightmare. This could be the point of the album: this could be its experiment. Yet, if this is the case, it is an experiment in communicating an amateurish anger, a point-to-point attempt at the purity of the face-to-face where one and the other yell at each other, an offensive musical monologue, a war of loudspeakers, channels of control—& this sounds like something that most of us have certainly heard before.

By tobias c. van Veen

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