Jack Harris & Samuel Rodgers · What’s that for, mate?

Jack Harris & Samuel Rodgers · What’s that for, mate?

Recorded in March 2010, What's that for, mate? is one of the first recordings the duo made together. At this time the two worked with a combination of no-input and acoustic feedback, digital processing and phonography. This recording sees a discourse resulting from the amalgamation of and conflict between the analogue and the digital, the gestural and the static, and multiple recorded spaces, as articulated through the use of field recordings.

Jack Harris is a musician and sound artist working with live action, improvisation, and recording.

Samuel Rodgers is a sound artist and composer/improviser. Time is given to exploring acoustic phenomena, and developing haptic relationships to sounding objects and spaces. Sound recording and reproduction are key in the articulation of these spatial relationships.


Anyway, the music I have been listening to tonight I should admit to having had a connection with for quite some time. Newly released on the beautifully packaged Consumer Waste label, What's that for, mate? is an album of two pieces of music by the young British duo of Jack Harris (laptop on this disc) and Samuel Rodgers (electronics on this occasion) that were recorded back in March 2010. The music was sent to me as a demo way over a year ago, and liking it a lot I even offered to put it up online at this website should they not find a physical label willing and able to release it. The good news is that it has found a home on Consumer Waste, which pleases me a great deal. Harris and Rodgers have worked on and off for a couple of years now, with the two pieces here actually being quite early works. The first piece is named (no idea why) This is a Christmas poem y'know, and is a work that plays extremes off against each other. Much of the early part of the disc is virtually silent. Just the faintest of crackles can be heard, sometimes only when your ear is placed next to the speaker, but gradually this near silence is interrupted by little bursts of dirty electronic distortion that suddenly stab across the music. Slowly these become more vicious, and more frequent, and after a while both musicians trade little bits of white noise and feedback with nothing staying around too long, things suddenly cutting away, and plenty of negative space left in the piece to frame the musicians' contributions. The feeling thorough the almost half hour long track is constantly one of uncertainty and fragility. When everything recedes and only a thin, whispery line of feedback may remain the sensation we are left with is one of imminent disruption, and we are rarely disappointed, though never does the music slip into any kind of obvious pattern. In its dying minutes, as we think the track may be ending, the softly pattering textures are still frequently ripped apart by sudden shrieks of loud electronic distortion.

The juxtapositions of loud and quiet, long and sudden form the basic structure of the second piece as well, the even more curiously named and I'm the toilet seat of a woman. Here though the twenty one minute track begins quite differently. We hear a field recording slowly emerge at the opening of the piece, a murky capture of some kind of social gathering, maybe a party, and after a few seconds of disembodied, half distant voices it becomes clear that Robbie Williams' anthem for the tasteless masses Angels can be heard somewhere. This all then halts abruptly and a quiet, soft electronic tone slips into earshot, holding some minuscule metallic clicking in place for a fee seconds before cutting out again and a further field recording, of a young girl calling out the letters of an alphabet can be heard for a brief moment. So the track goes for a while, with these seemingly disconnected spaces coming and going until the track settles into an interplay of electronic buzzes and clicks, much softer than the first track's abrasions, but still with that undercurrent of pregnant tension. This instrumental (for want of a better word) section forms the centrepiece of the track, and is the most developed and musical part of the CD. It is hard to tell who is making which sounds but a sense of interaction is clear in this portion of the album rather than the disconnected juxtapositions elsewhere. Late in the piece then, a young female voice appears, seemingly reciting a text of some kind. I am reminded of Alice in Wonderland for some reason, though I can't quite follow what she is reading.

Despite my efforts here, What's that for, mate? isn't really served well by trying to describe it section by section. In many ways what we hear is thoroughly common in today's modern improvisation, but there is something about the way this album is structured, the particular choice of field recordings, (there is a real Englishness about them though ask me to explain such a pronouncement and I probably couldn't) and the way everything reacts to everything else in a very simple, elemental way that makes this album work for me. A fine early recording by two of the most interesting young musicians the UK has to offer right now then. The CD and its letterpress sleeve also look stunning, as do the other two new releases on the Consumer Waste label.

Fine laptop/electronics session, two longish works, each traversing substantial territory in a calm and inquisitive manner. Generally quiet but with a few laser blasts and, better, some unexpected encounters in the form of voices and brief rhythmic patterns. There's an impressive intensity to the calmness, a highly tuned consideration of sounds and sequencing, and a good balance of the gentle and the severe. This grew on me each successive time I listened, a very enjoyable amble indeed.

Totally by accident I got this handed in the Extrapool office, having no idea why and how it ended up there, but it had the Vital Weekly name on it. Samuel Rodgers probably left it after he played there with Stephen Cornford last month. Together they run the label Consumer Waste. I wasn't altogether that much impressed by their concert last month, which I thought was a bit pretentious, with loud feedback parts and not a like of improvised music. I remember sitting there and listening and thinking about the whole nature of live music, home music, and such like. For instance: would I have been listening all this time if I could control the volume myself? I probably would. Maybe I rather to listen to difficult kinds of music at home, more control I guess. On What's that for, mate?, I certainly adjusted the volume a couple of times. No doubt much against the wishes of the two players, Jack Harris (laptop) and Samuel Rodgers (electronics), who, no doubt, deliberately have these quiet parts cut with extremely noisy bits. They both arrive from the world of improvisation, which is shown in the fact that nothing takes on too much time, so whenever the loud part start, you know its not lasting that long (and saves me getting up, adjusting volumes). The two lengthy pieces have an interesting vibrant feel to it, electro-acoustic for sure, but its hard to tell which acoustics are broken here. A bit Moslang/Guhl like, if anyone remembers their joint concerts. Maybe fifty minutes is a bit long for such improvised assaults, but and I'm the toilet seat of a woman, the second piece that follows after This is a Christmas poem y'know, (note the comma), is a more concentrated affair of continuous/sustaining sounds, including a found voice and the piercing bit just at the end of the twenty minutes, whereas the first bounces around most of the time. So, for me, the first piece would have been best enjoyed in concert, whereas the second worked best at home - I am merely assuming, as you might have guessed.

Exploring extremes of dynamic (finding the right playback volume is quite a challenge - keep that remote control close to hand) and texture, from austere, near inaudible hums and flutters to homely field recordings (what's Robbie Williams doing in there?), these two lengthy slabs of laptop and no-input electronics recorded at Dartington College of Arts, Devon, are as intriguing as their titles - This is a Christmas poem y'know, (complete with stray comma) and and I'm the toilet seat of a woman - and as beautifully produced as the letterpress handmade card cover they come in.