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Jerome Noetinger / ErikM - What A Wonderful World

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Artist: Jerome Noetinger / ErikM

Album: What A Wonderful World

Label: Erstwhile

Review date: Aug. 19, 2003

The Splice is Right

Looking at the whole of a filmstrip, one can see the entire, sequential destiny, from start to finish. A media so inexorably linked to time is completely, unabashedly frozen and motionless. In the seemingly impotent filmstrip there is freedom from temporality in a temporal medium – all is subject to alteration, reversals and invisible splices. Music holds no such luxury.

Musique Concrete is essentially the most analogous musical form to cinema, a parallel not lost on Jerome Noetinger, director of the Metamkine label, who released a slew of excellent 3" CDs entitled Cinema For the Ear. Metamkine and its axis of composers represents one of the few remaining vestiges of progressive Musique Concrete, visually evocative, challenging, and critical of its hierarchical and academic lineage. In each 20-minute piece, ideas carefully unravel, be it Zbigniew Karkowski’s powerful discourse on the nature of conscious and unconscious sound or Lionel Marchetti’s surreal travelogues.

Erstwhile, on the other hand, the label that has recently released a collaboration between Noetinger and like-minded turntablist/electronic musician ErikM, is noted for some of the opposite extremes, namely the rigorously concentrated, deeply abstracted, and improvisatory-based music it has been heralding for nearly five years. Separate from Metamkine’s releases, Noetinger and ErikM have been very active in improvisatory music, playing with Erstwhile usual suspects such as Otomo Yoshihide and Voice Crack, among others. A recent Noetinger outing, Floppy Nails with QuintetAvant showed a seamless integration of concrete sounds into an improvisatory setting. On What A Wonderful World however, and in line with Erstwhile, abstraction becomes key.

Sharp blurts of sound, high-pitched squeals and an overall crunchiness seem to speed by incredibly fast, making What A Wonderful World something of an anomaly in the often deliberated and equilibrium-maintaining pace of other Erstwhile releases. The sharp and gritty textures, fully utilizing the spatial spectrum, intermingle with just the smallest trace elements of concrete sounds. Children at play and distorted screaming in the first 30 seconds of “Skies of Blue” quickly whip up into a bleeping and disorienting froth. Crickets quickly decompose into high-pitched sine tones alongside of a whirring electrical hum on “Dark Sacred Night”. Similar progressions occur on other tracks, where a small clip of music or a field recording becomes broken into a crackling, fantastic caricature of itself.

These abstract sounds rupture the notions of temporality and cinematic continuity that are so vital to Musique Concrete. It seems like an equivalent to the un-projected filmstrip, removed from it’s own logic and capable of ending or beginning at any given point. The sounds of birds chirping could be audibly dissolved or accelerated, as the music on What A Wonderful World seems to wave back and forth, subject to the will and whims of Noetinger and ErikM rather than pinned by its duration. With every block of concrete sound that is laid down, with the promise of carefully revealing the mysteries of its origins, there is a certain violence that jerks familiar sound into an intangible and bewildering state.

That said, over the 44-minute duration, What A Wonderful World still manages to be thematically powerful as a simultaneously literal and symbolic interpretation of the George David Weiss-penned chestnut (excepting the third track, an enjoyable digression titled “Revox Chili Peppers”, the original working title of the album). The dichotomy between abstract music and concrete music seems to be wonderfully documented here, cleverly using a well-known song to make the case as clear as possible. Maybe a good analogy would be Cubists, each angle, each crevice of the wonderful world depicted in the song seems to be ecstatically reflected in the music, all at once.

By Matt Wellins

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