Monday, April 13, 2009

Andrea Parkins - Faulty (Broken Orbit) (Important Records CD)

Published over at Brainwashed:

Reworking a site-specific piece she performed in 2007 in New York City, this disc finds sound artist Andrea Parkins using a slew of amplified objects along with her own processed accordion to create an hour long work of bloops, blips, and scratches. The combined effect of which transcends genre in favor of a pure and unadulterated sonic exploration for the electronic age, as her myriad patches decompose much of the sound into pieces that situate the listener on the verge of witnessing, in her own words, "things falling apart."

It's an exciting place to be, but a precipitous one as well, and success in this scenario is often judged largely as nothing more than an avoidance of potential disaster. Yet Parkins puts this tendency to rest with ease, breaking the work into six tracks that each explores her immense hi-fidelity electronic swathes interwoven with aurally tactile amplified objects. This can be seen from the get-go, as "i" opens with a series of gentle scrapes that sound like a comb run over a table. Soon electronic washes glide in, adding to the alien trajectory of the work whose overall organizing principles feel more like a Cagean experiment with chance operations and "small sounds" then the contemporary electronic works most prevalent today.

To some extent, it seems to be this distinction that best sums up Parkins' sound. In the environment Parkins sets up, no sound is uninteresting and each detail is worth the attention afforded it in such an open sonic space. It is music whose visual accompaniment might well change the entire effect (as one sees the contact mic'd brushes--or whatever she's using--run across some metallic sheet). Instead, the disc provides only the aural imprint of the work, and the result is refreshingly abrasive without being overtly harsh. This is hyper-reality, not sur-reality.

Elsewhere Parkins uses her processed accordion, an instrument the timbre and effect of which is barely recognizable among the clicks and nearly sterile screes of data breakdown. This is perhaps clearest on "ii," as the accordion tones wheeze and wooze against a noisy field of sound that could well be a recording of some microscopic insect world. Each tone is clear and concise, but barely any sound is decipherable.

Ultimately this means that barely anything on here approaches any kind of groove in the typical sense. Sure, there are drones, patterns, constructions and even notes, but the overall build leaves little to hold on to, making each second as surprising and intriguing as the last. It's refreshing to hear someone who sounds as though even they are discovering the material as the piece is underway, adding to the genuine sense of new that emanates throughout the work. This is not "experimental" music, but what it is is far more intriguing. It is a genuine example of sound exploration that raises an eyebrow in that unique space between curious discovery and terrified intrigue, and that is too rare a thing in a world that so frequently bestows the title of "experimental" upon itself.

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