Matt Earle + Jason Kahn + Adam Sussmann · Draught

Matt Earle + Jason Kahn + Adam Sussmann · Draught

Earle and Sussmann are best known for their minimal electronic work as Stasis Duo but this disc sees them in far more bracing mode for this all electronics trio. Recorded while Kahn was touring Australia in 2009.

Matt Earle works with blank media including samplers, mixers, turntables and tapedecks. He has a solo project under the name Muura, and plays in the groups Stasis Duo and Xwave (with Adam Sussmann), xNoBBQx and Sun of the Seventh Sister. He also runs the Breakdance the Dawn record label.

Jason Kahn is a composer, improviser and installation artist working primarily with percussion and electronics. He has exhibited and performed extensively across the world, and has worked with a wide array of artists including Tomas Korber, Brandon Labelle, Günter Müller and Toshimaru Nakamura. From 1997-2009 he ran the Cut record label.

Adam Sussmann works with simple electronics and guitar, utilizing extended techniques and practices to engage the listener into concentrated spaces of highly attuned listening. He is a member of the groups Stasis Duo, Xwave, SSS, Your Intestines and 2779, and has collaborated with artists such as Toshimaru Nakamura, Oren Ambarchi, Mattin, Annette Krebbs and Will Guthrie.


Takich płyt ukazało się już wiele. Swego czasu oficyna Erstwhile przodowała w wydawaniu tego rodzaju muzyki – elektroakustycznej improwizacji, zafiksowanej na pewnej brzmieniowej abstrakcji, która po pewnym czasie uległa silnej kodyfikacji. Analogowe szumy i piski, dźwięki przestrajanego radia, do tego nagłe zdarzenia, takie jak cyfrowe erupcje – muzyczny język EAI stał się dla niektórych obowiązujący. Reguły jego gramatyki i składni opanowali twórcy ze Stasis Duo (Süssman i Earle), którzy spotkali się na scenie z weteranem elektronicznego eksperymentu Jasonem Kahnem. „Draught” dokumentuje pierwszy set w takim składzie i jak z tego typu przedsięwzięciami bywa, tyle tu momentów frapujących, co dłużyzn. Narracja jest tu konsekwentna, jakość wykonania satysfakcjonująca, jednak od pierwszego słuchania odczuwałem w muzyce tria brak pomysłu na przełamanie konwencji EAI.

Peut-être certains d’entre vous ont déjà entendu ce trio paru l’année dernière en édition gratuite sur le label Avant Whatever (que vous pouvez trouver ici si ça vous intéresse). Sinon, pour les présenter rapidement, il s’agit d’un côté des deux membres du duo Stasis, soit Matt Earle (aka Muura) & Adam Sussmann, accompagnés ici par l’artiste sonore et improvisateur Jason Kahn. Sur ces deux pièces enregistrées à l’occasion d’une tournée en Australie, les trois artistes sonores utilisent tous différentes installations électriques et électroniques (tables de mixage en circuit fermé, radio, synthétiseurs analogiques, etc.).

Il s’agit donc de deux pièces pas évidentes à décrire, deux pièces où tout le monde se répond par des bruits parasites souvent, par des larsens, des grésillements, crépitements, fréquences radio, infrabasses, etc. Quarante minutes d’improvisation électronique glitch et minimale, où les défauts techniques des machines et les résidus sonores occupent le tout premier plan. L’originalité de ce duo est de parvenir à créer une musique dense et riche, tout en étant calme et espacée. Ils ne jouent que rarement fort, tout le monde ne joue pas en même temps, et seuls quelques éléments sonores simples s’imbriquent et se superposent. Une accumulation épurée de matériaux crades, en constante évolution et mutation. On ne sait jamais trop où est-ce qu’on est ni ou est-ce qu’ils vont nous emmener. Le trio parvient à surprendre et à déjouer l’agression sonore pour produire une musique simple et dense, intense et calme simultanément. Deux bonnes performances plutôt singulières.

Australian musicians Matt Earle and Adam Sussman are perhaps best known for their work together as Stasis Duo, with releases on Organised Music From Thessaloniki and Earle’s own Breakdance the Dawn, amongst others. Draught sees them collaborate with US-born, Zürich-based artist Jason Kahn in a session recorded at Akemi, a DIY arts space in Medlow, Australia dedicated to improvised music and experimental art. As its title suggests, the album is based around sounds in a hissing, whistling, shushing, sizzling vein, streams of electronic sibilance providing a basis and connecting thread for a variety of other mostly atonal noises.

In the first untitled track individual sounds are given time and space of their own, lined up like discrete words in a sentence (though they frequently run into one another or overlap). Structure unfolds as in conversation, improvised yet coherent, elements linked by stresses and contours. No one’s in a rush here, which isn’t to say that the piece is sedate – some of the draughts here have real bite and grit, though dissonance for its own sake never appears to be a goal. The second track cranks up the tension still further, with more polyphony, stronger contrasts between moments of pause and activity, and a more insistent pace. However, the tension referred to here is a kind of tensile strength found in the acoustic material itself, rather than anything related to the evocation of psychological drama. At times I was reminded a little of Machinefabriek’s more abstract moments, especially when harsh and smooth sounds were juxtaposed, though the trio’s preference seems to lean towards the discreteness of each sound and towards more open, fragmented structures – permutations or iterations rather than developing frameworks or narratives, one could say.

For me, hearing Draught is a little like listening to an audio slideshow, sound by sound by sound by sound, the same scene shot from multiple angles, zooming in step by step and then out again. The ways in which these individual pieces add up to give the impression of an open-ended exchange of thought, of ideas being shared and worked through, is perhaps what fascinates me most about this release. I am constantly aware that the elements could always be arranged differently, that any solution reached is contingent and provisional and that the puzzle could always be considered from other angles – there is no illusion of a complete or unified whole here. In enumerating the sounds one by one, the trio invite the listener to contribute to the working through of a problem: listening becomes a way of establishing a possible syntax, of joining up the dots in pencil.

Draught is another fine release from Consumer Waste in a limited CD edition of 100, with the label’s signature packaging handmade from post-consumer waste. The two twenty-minute tracks form a lucid demonstration of how both improvised performance and listening can be ways of participating in a discussion, of collaborating on a shared task or problem – a kind of open source music, if you will.

Not enough mosquito alarm in the music nowadays...

Trio electronics from a 2009 session. It’s a somewhat disjointed set. The first of the two tracks contains small sheets of sound overlaying and skidding past one another (I think “mica”) while the second is denser and shifts focus more often, kind of slippery and disjunctive. It’s ok but there’s a routine feeling to me about this set, hard to differentiate from many others over the last few years. It reaches an intriguing, complex little pool of sound toward the end of track two, but too little too late.

Tactility plays a big part in the Consumer Waste universe. Letter-pressed sleeves of biscuit coloured card that come in brown paper envelopes. If you are releasing something on a physical format that you can hold in your hands, you might as well make it, well, physical. These two CDs were made available at the same time last year each in an edition of 100. In a way they both speak the same language, with different accents and with different inflections, but still recognisably the same language.

Part I. Draught

You might well expect an improvisation featuring three men all playing electronics would lead to an overblown noisefest, but not this time. Earle, Kahn and Sussman play a music that is not defined by the space inside it, rather the space around it. Everything sounds pretty close to the ears, sometimes startlingly so. Occasionally it’s as if the vibrations are being tympanically generated or intra-cochlear in nature. Linear blips and small tides of silvery static erupt and fade, as if the musicians are trying to squeeze their tones through a tight conduit: A beam reaching out through space, highly focused and concentrated, but prone to leakage and disruption. Anything escaping is lost like a decaying particle and flickers to zero mass in the outlying darkness.

The two tracks comprising Draught last around twenty minutes each and are nameless. No meaning or reference is implied, although a compass on the cover suggests navigation, distance, direction, magnetism, attraction, positioning and precision. At points real physical activity seems to occur and then abruptly vanishes, but these recordings of movement and found sound are mere outliers to the electrical flow, which remains directed and concise.

During the second track the beam widens and becomes more disturbed. Squalling frequencies and frazzled circuits become evident. Periods of stuttering static and a falling, low resonance that refuses to disperse begins an unravelling of the music’s core. More leakage. More distance. Bristling ticks of static over bell like tones. Is this evidence of attack from outside or decay from inside? It ends on what might be a distorted communication from areas and entities unknown.

Some recordings of improvised music work because they exude a certain sensuality – a sensation of the music sliding and intertwining around itself to create something that feels organic, almost animalistic – an alive, constantly changing lifeform. Usually, when I feel this way about music, there is at least some degree of acoustic sound involved. My favourite performances of improvised music actually usually pair electronic with acoustic or at least electro-acoustic instrumentation, and examples of all-electronic improv groups that really make my toes curl are few and far between. Various pairings involving Tim Blechmann spring to mind, and one or two things with Toshi Nakamura, but otherwise there are few strong examples. Here then we have a trio listed as playing ‘various electronics’ that I find a very sensual, and powerfully engaging.

The duo of Adam Sussmann and Matt Earle, otherwise known as Stasis Duo amongst other monikers are another group dealing in primarily electronic sounds I have enjoyed down the years, though Sussmann has always listed acoustic guitar as a source of his sounds before this release. They are joined here by Jason Kahn, with whom they released an excellent free download album last year. Draught, a new release on Consumer Waste contains two recordings that actually date back to two years earlier than the previous album, having been recorded as long ago as 2009. Kahn mixes analogue synth around the fizz, crackle and growl of Earle and Sussmann’s lo-fi electronics, and while the three voices can all be separated at any one moment, its hard to know who is who over the course of the album. I recently went back and listened to an early Spontaneous Music Ensemble album, while researching something else, and listening here to Draught I am oddly reminded of that listening experience. While the music of the SME all those years ago was completely different in so many ways, the way that group flowed together, streamed all of their resources into one organic whole sprang to mind while listening here. Throughout Draught’s forty minutes of bleeps and whistles, pops and crackles something equally natural, similarly democratic evolves. The three electronic voices merge and separate, but writhe around each other in a yes, very sensual manner to create music that feels like rushing water, or heavy windswept branches brushing against each other on a tree. None of this occurs by accident. The dips and pauses in the music, the passages of intense activity, the parts wherein sudden disruptive sounds counter more passive ones are all the work of three creative musical minds moulding everything together.

In some ways, Draught could be put forward as a good example of archetypal modern improvisation. Traditional instrumentation cast aside, but still the same ways of thinking, of combining contributions to make one small community of sounds. Its a fine album of improvised music. Probably no more than that but well worth remarking upon for just that reason. This is an album likely to be admired by a select few, but then filed away on the shelves. Only a hundred copies exist. Those should cover the potential market. It won’t make a mark on the world, and will probably escape the attention of a fair number of those that might enjoy it, but all I can do is recommend it to you.