Stria (with Jgrzinich)


Stria is the companion album to Confluence.

Sources include voice, bowed metal, pebbles, motor-driven instruments, beans in wooden and plastic containers, a worn copy of Alvin Lucier’s Music on a Long Thin Wire, and recordings of fire, a field in the Columbia Gorge, microphones dragged through grass, and previous sounds as broadcast on radios in rooms and on streets in Koper, Slovenia.

CD, 45 min.
Erewhon CDWhon008
Composed 1998 – 2001, released 2003

Y: If we follow a line of inquiry without particular concern for the outcome in any way, what are the unknown effects of space, time or distance?
X: We try to concern ourselves entirely with movement, disregarding or abandoning the idea of ‘objects’, seeing instead only ‘processes’. Sounds attempt to “move through” rather than to be “something”.
Z: Do we create experiments in order to observe results, or do we try to observe what is already there?
Y: There is the effect of one sound on another – the forces of interaction. From this we draw our significance. This is the “sound of space” (the actual acoustical phenomena which is mutual, inescapable, physical).
Y: As participants, we were bound to a horizontal status of using sound-generating materials in a given space. The parameters are space and matter (room and materials).
Z: Where do associations originate and what kind of meaning is inherent in them, if any at all?
Y: The ‘resonation’ effect of this type of exercise can only be seen when the components and process are abstracted from their referential definitions. This is the “space of sound” (the perceptive role of the interacting listener).
Y: Meaning is not dependent on us, even though it is true that we use a focus and a filter. Any more significant meaning can only be reached through repetition.
Y: Is meaning useful at the time of listening? Is meaning only what is useful at the time of listening?
X: It is a matter of observing in, let us say, a holistic context the difference between representation and signification.
Y: To see how a given set of relatively unfamiliar parameters produce a ‘resonance’ among its components.
Z: Taken as symbolic action, this approach is to use a group of people as in instrument of auditory communication.
Y: In this way, the context, material and participants unify to become the ‘instrument’ and the ‘music’.

{from the liner notes by Seth Nehil and John Grzinich (re-composed by Bethany Wright)


Stria is the counterpart to the forthcoming confluence soon to be released by Intransitive Recordings. Erewhon is a Belgian label that has been releasing some extremely essential recordings from PBK, Artificial Memory Trace, Mnortham and Lionel Marchetti. On stria there appears to be a universal presence, a good and evil – almost combined as one. The three long play tracks herein gather multiple layered sources. The overall feel to the disc breathes deeply like the residue of a built and destructed climax of a Philip Glass score. This can eerily be witnessed on ‘Tome Gather’, a 20 minute sub-symphonic piece that breathes under cover. All practicality aside, the themes in this track are built on an eight year collaborative relationship between Seth Nehil and jgrzinich (John Grzinich). The focus here is certainly resonance, in its intense tonal vibration and chamber of contained sounds. Any assigned structures have been unmasked to mirror their own continuity. The repetitive acoustics beg to be sited, but there is no clear answer to what “instrument” you hear, it is more an ambiguous amalgamation of found objects played by about a dozen participants. The unsettling perpetuity of the work recalls Robert Rich’s Sleep Concerts. ‘Arboreal’ starts as though it were a group survey of the aftermath of a fire still partially ablaze. Its crunchy distortion piles through with a metered speed in a gesture that seems off center yet directional. There is a circular, wind tunnel running through the piece, the sense of the outdoors – I could almost smell rain. Flames lap through an almost silent conclusion to this track, leaving with a work that is punctuated in mystery. About four years in the making, stria (and confluence) are works of organic growth for these artists. A true collaboration that bends whatever rules would necessitate such meaningful relationships in sound space. ‘The Mirrored Corner’ uses wire drones from the Biotope installation that was shown at the Kapelica Galerija in Slovenia. The constant winding, buzzing, drone builds and retreats and repeats with a weary statement of entrapment and vaporization. There is a reflective caution to this final track, one that speaks of voids and validity, a strict balance of finite realities.
– TJ Norris, SoundVision, July 2002

2 collaborators working across the years bring you, in the first track, drone tones, every shifting and evolving. Low rumbles that add texture, conflicting higher pitches that swoop between each other, a side tone that you don’t even hear unless you ignore all other sounds. There are many things going on. Yes, you could fall asleep to this, but I think it would be better used as headphone music while reading a book sitting cross-legged on the floor. The second track is different, dropping nuts and bolts onto a plexiglass sheet? Whatever it is, it is heavily textured sound. There are a couple of different sound sources and hidden sounds in this, building from simple drops to what could be grease frying to the sound of fire at a small campsite – all from the same original source, just processed. The final song is back to heavily layered tones. This isn’t a dark release, iI wouldn’t say it is without emotion, but it leaves it up to you, if you are having a bad day this ride with you down the hole, if you are happy, you can feel the energy and excitement.
– Don Poe,

Sound sculptor Seth Nehil (1973) began his musical career in Texas (he was one half of the duo Philosophical Society, that released the cassettes Transactions of… in 1989 and Crimes Against… in 1990), but is now a resident of Portland, Oregon. His music for tapes and instruments is a descendant of the tape-music experiments of the 1950s. Tracing the Skins of Clouds (Kaon, 1998) was the manifesto of his chamber music for found objects and instruments.
John Grzinich (aka Jgrzinich) is a builder of amplified piano wire instruments, who uses them to compose even more sophisticated sound sculptures. He has created video and audio installations in Eastern Europe. He is also a member of the improvising collective Frequency Curtain (Elevator Bath, 2003) with Rick Reed and Josh Ronsen, and of the live improvisation ensemble ERG with Michael Northam.
Alial Straa is the live electro-acoustic ensemble that Nehil and Grzinich formed in 1994. The two continued their experiments (in particular, letting a group of people make random percussive sounds by banging a variety of found objects) and eventually documented them on a couple of twin releases, Stria (Erewhon, 2002) and Confluence (Intransitive, 2002).
Stria (Erewhon, 2002) contains three droning pieces in slow motion. ‘Tome Gather’ (composed by Nehil) is largely uneventful, except for the moment (towards the beginning) when it summons up ghostly voices from the center of the universe, but for the rest the exploration of sound fails to sustain interest. Ditto for the shorter ‘Arboreal’ (again composed by Nehil), which is too busy admiring the source noises to actually try to do something with them. ‘The Mirrored Corner’ (composed by John Grzinich) is the highlight here: the drones expand and contract like in a drug-induced hallucination, and the massive vibration sends powerful shockwaves to the cerebellum (the last eight minutes are redundant, though, or should have been a separate piece).
Confluence is the more intense of the two releases. Here, the duo’s study of timbres, texture and dynamics reaches new heights of paroxysm, as if they achieved a hypnotic state with Stria and then let their imagination roam inside that state. ‘Pneuma’ begins quietly, and for a while we are let to believe that this will be the usual “exploration of time and space” that is prevalent in this age of minimal digital music. But from the beginning we are enveloped in whirling drones, so that the overall feeling is one of an approaching storm whose clouds are tied to cans and pots. Suddenly, the piece climaxes with a chaotic crescendo of found percussions. That in turn leads into a section of ominous drones, as if the nasty clouds were receding. “Pneuma” means “breathing” in Greek, but, if that is the intended meaning, this is the slow-motion replay of the last gasp of a terminally-ill tuberculosis patient. Lohme, the other tour de force, begins with a clangor of percussions that immediately brings to mind Terry Riley’s ‘In C’, but the main flow of discrete noises is altered by a underlying drone, that acts almost like a guiding signal. Soon, this refined vibration takes over and establishes a much less playful mood, as the entire universe seems to be shaking in unison inside this colossal mantra while drifting at the speed of light towards a black hole (whose deadly sountrack in fact occupies the last eight minutes). These sound scultures (both composed by John Grzinich) are vivid and poignant. The brief ‘The Distant Edge’ gathers a great many buzzing voices and traffic noises. This could have been a ‘Hymnen’ (Stockhausen’s classic collage of voices) for the 21st century. Unfortunately, the duo only toys with the idea but doesn’t pursue it with the required expressionistic pathos.
– Piero Scaruffi | (Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

Qusto CD fa parte della categoria “File under: uneasy-no guts no glory-listening”, quindi se avete nervi saldi, non fate uso di sostanze psicotrope troppo potenti e vi va di provare qualcosa di “indigeribile”, proseguite nella lettura. Seth Nehil & Jgrzinich non sono due “matti scocciati” (come li definirebbe qualche vostro amico capitolino), ma fanno parte di quel circuito artistico delle installazioni e della sperimentazione elettroacustica che rimanda a Cage ed al suo manipolo di “sciagurati senza Dio”. Rumore che non è rumore, musica che non è musicale e che comunque dovrebbe sempre essere accompagnata dalla lettura “dei come e dei perchè” di ogni singola “piece”, proprio perchè il suo valore, prima ancora che musicale, è concettuale. Per chi di voi ha masticato un po’ isolazionismo, Koner ,Soviet*France ,Main potrebbero a grandi (grandissime) linee fornire un qualche inquadramento per poter immaginare un suono che non è facile descrivere.
Partendo da Confluence si “affrontano” subito i venti minuti di Pneuma , che, a dispetto della durata, cullano fra rielaborazioni di field-recording e suoni acustici persi fra le maglie di un tappeto di “drones”. La successiva The Distant Edge espone immediatamente uno dei temi cari ai nostri due autori: i concetti di “interazione fra gruppi” e di “partecipazione nel contesto sociale della attività di generazione del suono”. Oltre alla decina di partecipazioni individuali (fra cui svetta uno Stephen Austin che a qualcuno potrebbe ricordare qualcosa), gran parte del materiale proviene da un riadattamento di una manifestazione registrata a Belgrado. Il risultato è una sorta di amalgama uniforme di voci e di rumore intrecciati magistralmente, questa volta non così distanti da alcuni studi classico-contemporanei del caro e vecchio Morricone . ‘Lohme’ , per onor di cronaca, è stata registrata alla Stazione Topolo in Italia (non chiedetemi dove), in questo caso Grzinich e Nehil presentano un intero Resonance Ensemble risultato leggermente meno efficace rispetto a ‘The Distant Edge’ , ma comunque efficace.
Seguendo le indicazioni degli autori, l’ascolto di Confluence deve essere assolutamente accompagnato da quello di Stria , edito dalla belga Erewhon. Anche in Stria si parte con i venti minuti di Tome Gather , per cui viene utilizzata una nuova decina di individui mescolati ad elementi sonori creati da Nehil e Jgrzinich medesimi. Tinte fosche, sfondi poco luminosi e qualche rumore post-industriale; se solo Marinetti avesse potuto musicare la depressione del nuovo millennio, forse avrebbe avuto questo suono: un cupo “drone” dal cui fondo emerge faticosamente qualche suono. ‘Arboreal’ (alcune delle fonti provengono nuovamente dalla Stazione Topolo), coerentemente con ciò che suggerisce il titolo, ritorna alla forma più familiare della “field-recording”. Il CD si chiude con i sedici minuti di The Mirrored Corner , dove i “drones” sono estratti dalla Biotope Installation effettuata in un museo di Ljubijana. Suoni meccanici lontani che si avvicinano timidamente per poi scomparire in vecchie costruzioni abbandonate, “Ormai essere lontani…il tempo del nostro amore un mare lucente e morto… Nella luce la tua parte è finita, non ho buio nel petto per tenere la tua ombra”. Inutile mentire: l’impegno richiesto all’ascoltatore è molto, ma Neihil e Jgrzinich “significano” là dove le parole non servono più a nulla.

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