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Richard Garet - Areal

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Artist: Richard Garet

Album: Areal

Label: 23five, Inc.

Review date: Apr. 16, 2012

For a work that stretches out for over 50 minutes, Areal feels small. It’s all about details, about micro-phenomena. Specifically, it’s about the electromagentic fields that hover around Richard Garet’s work table. Using a set-up of “objects, exciters and extended techniques,” Garet activates and then captures various hidden sounds near his working space. What he reveals is lively and evolving: masses of greyed static, pinging harmonics, mechanical grinding, hollowed-out drones, slippery pulses and more. It’s like scanning radio stations somewhere in the Great Plains and finding not dead air, but a whole world of broadcasts in an unknown language. Except the source of these broadcasts is not in some vast ether. They are intimate, and hidden right next to you.

The description is oblique, because so is the process. Where Garet sources a particular sound and how each affects and relates to the other is difficult to discern. We can look at his set-up, but I’m not sure it makes us any the wiser about what we hear. The image is mundane and technical. The idea is evocative and abstract: Garet not as performer but as a medium channeling unseen and unheard forces.

This not to say that Garet is “hands off” in this process. On the contrary, he is very much present, except his role is more as a mixer than composer. He fades elements in and out, overlays, and jump-cuts. But in no way does he attempt to impose a narrative or insert preludes, climaxes and resolution. It feels like a performance, captures a certain vital immediacy. Any more heavy-handed attempt to shoehorn all the stray, wild electromagnetic action into some kind of structure would surely have made the result ponderous.

While Garet’s methods resemble a sort of serious-minded nexus of sound art and sonic research, it’s the response he provokes that is more vital. As the blocks of subliminal, grey-scale sound slide past, I was continually struck by how ominous and alien they are, and how they are made more menacing by existing so locally. They are, literally, all around us — a constant, haunting presence.

It made me realize that while Garet does produce a certain intellectual and technical curiosity (a “how does he do that?”) with his concepts, he also gets at a more intuitive response, one comprising some very basic, instinctual feelings: fear and its attendant excitement. What Garet conjures are ghosts, living entities that shadow everything we do. It’s this gut-level reaction and how it bypasses the “how” and “what” of where it comes from that lets Areal be much more than its concept.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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