Ben Gwilliam & Hainer Wörmann · cardtape drafts
Ben Gwilliam and Hainer Wörmann first met in early 2008 for a small concert. From two further studio sessions, cardtape drafts is a careful crafting of electronic texture and amplified surface. Four vignettes of differing movements in static sound and shifting spaces made from surface contacts and magnetic windings.
Ben Gwilliam is a sound artist and improvising musician based in Manchester, England. He works in the cross fields of experimental music, sound art, film and performance. Since the early 2000’s he has been working with open reel tape, magnetics and amplified processes in solo and collaborative arrangements. His work is a curiosity about sound – making/recording and listening, the ‘sounds between’ things as Installations, performances and appropriations. He has worked, performed and exhibited in Europe and the USA.
Hainer Wörmann is an improvising guitar player who works with extended play techniques focusing on mechanic preparations and processes. He has performed with Keith Rowe, John Russell, Phil Minton, Evan Parker and John Butcher amongst other. NurNichtNur published his Solo-CD Lower Rhine Sonata in 2001. Since 2003 he has extended his sound palette to amplified cardboard as a new instrument and way of improvising. Solo- performances, collaborations with visual and sound-artists led to the cardboard-project, a video-sound-performance with Harald Busch (catalogue incl. audio-CD, Bremen 2005). His work has been featured for radio, festivals and concerts in Germany and abroad.
I believe (I’ll doubtless be proved wrong) that this is my first exposure to Gwilliam (tape, magnetics, amplified processes) and Wörmann (amplified cardboard, preparations), hopefully not the last.
Yes, amplified cardboard. Excellent.
Four tracks, unhurried but not unbusy, carrying a strong sense of the space in which they were constructed, scurryings, tappings and rubbings buffeting against one another, almost as though blown into contact by a strong breeze. Great balance between liquid sounds and dry ones, the latter most often brought to us via the cardboard, if I’m not mistaken. Not that I expect to see such in everyone’s arsenal soon, but Wörmann wields it quite ably here. Dynamics are worked wonderfully, elements expand out of the room, into the open, still abristle, ebb to a rumble, wax again toward the end, everything buzzing.
Strong recording; need to hear more from them…
Tonight’s CD is the last of the three recent releases on the Consumer Waste label that I have yet to write about, an album named cardtape drafts by the Manchester/Bremen duo of Ben Gwilliam and Hainer Wörmann. The title of the album comes from the instrumentation used, with Gwilliam working with tape, magnetics and amplified processes and Wörmann amplified cardboard and preparations. Not your everyday choice of instrumentation then, but what this music is not is some kind of novelty recording. The four pieces here have a focussed musicality to them, a particular soundworld obviously dictated by the instrumentation chosen but without any sense of restriction. In fact if I did not know what was being played here I would have guessed at some kind of basic analogue electronics and some small close miked objects of one kind or another, but cardboard isn’t something I would have guessed.
The soundworld we are presented here does have a microscopic feel to it. Everything is very slow, each sound is generally quite small, little pops, clicks, rubs and tiny squeals blown up through the raw filters that microphones can be to create quite a textural, flattened series of sounds. From what I can tell we don’t really hear anything recorded on Gwilliam’s tapes, (presuming of course that the tape he uses is recording tape, it could quite easily be sticky tape of some kind) but rather we hear the sound of the tape itself physically moving over objects, being pulled against a tape head or other simple microphone, the output a granular crunch for the most part rather than anything particularly tonal, though little moments do appear, the groaning low drone of the final track AN being an obvious exception. Wörmann’s cardboard sounds are, as might be expected quite dry and wispy, but the use of amplification turns a bowed corner of thick card into a bristling roar, and tiny folds and cuts into percussive strikes of varying intensity. Oddly, I am also quite often reminded of the extended techniques applied to saxophones and trumpets. Things seem to gurgle and hiss in a similar way, and the tiny pops and clicks we hear often could easily belong to opened and closed valve keys. The amplified textures of Mark Wastell’s set-up a decade ago spring to mind, as do Jeph Jerman’s early close miked mini disc recordings, but what I enjoy the most about this music is how the actual sounds come second to the way they are arranged, how the music pans out.
Indeed, it is testament to how enjoyable this CD is musically that I found myself often forgetting how it was made and just engaging with the sounds presented. Quite often its impossible to tell who is doing what, where the tape begins and the card ends, and there is quite a sense of singularity here, hat the two musicians are working very closely together rather than pushing each other about. My favourite of the four tracks is probably HB, the first ten minute long piece, and particularly a section roughly halfway in where, if I was played the section blind I would have guessed I was hearing a field recording of something metallic being blown about on a windy day. This is very nice stuff then, thoroughly engaging, a set of sounds that draws the ear in and a musical voice that holds you there once you are grabbed. There are only a hundred copies each of these Consumer Waste discs by the way, and I imagine they are going fast, so I thoroughly recommend that you pick them up while you can.