Bryan Day posted a Facebook note a few days back declaring some releases coming in May on his Public Eyesore and Eh? labels, and suddenly I realized I already had one of them — the Recoupements CD-R by someone called Un Nu. Apparently Bryan had sent it to me before it was actually ‘released’, maybe in hopes I’d write something about it, who knows? I remembered listening to it once and it being a nice companion to the Chefkirk We Must Leave The Warren CD-R I had actually ordered that it arrived with. I decided to give it a couple more spins.
What we’ve got here is a single 52-minute track of live-in-the-studio improvisation, consistent with the overall Eh? aesthetic of artistic anti-music in simple packaging. The sleeve lists two performers, Pascal Battus on guitar pickups and Benjamin Duboc on double bass. I don’t have any idea what Mr. Battus is doing to those guitar pickups, let alone have I ever before heard of guitar pickups by themselves used as an instrument, but there’s long stretches of this where I don’t hear any sounds I could identify as any known instrument, let alone a double bass, even factoring out the passages where that instrument is used in a percussive capacity. In fact, for the first minute or so about all that can be heard is some faint crackling.
In fact, there are a lot of very quiet parts, so perhaps a sort of minimalist bent to what Un Nu are doing here. At times I hear tinkery percussive sounds like some kind of metal tools, as if I’ve just wandered into someone’s workshop where they’re quietly hard at work on something. Other times there’s a a soothing backdrop of some kind of very quiet feedback-like sounds, and just as it’s beginning to get lulling, a loud electrified POP or THUNK jumps out and startles me, I can almost see sparks flying from some piece of electrical equipment. This is just one way the performers take maximum advantage of volume contrasts, and they dramatically shift the mood several times during this piece even as they seem to be building with a pretty tight set of micro-motifs. There are some intense periods of drony bowing from the bass that get pretty rocking. At around 24 minutes in there’s a whole part that sounds like a motorcycle gang taking off; by the 30 minute mark it’s gone silent but for the faint noise floor of an amplifier.
It takes a certain talent to pull off doing this kind of atonal improvisation and be able to keep it engaging for almost an hour. Adventurous ears will have a ball with this, but of course if you’re familiar with Public Eyesore and Eh? you probably already figured as much. And if you’re not, this is a fine place to get introduced.
Available at Public Eyesore
EDIT: By the way, this year Public Eyesore becomes 15 years old!