istributed by Forced Exposure, Coagulate is the debut release from Anthony Pateras and Robin Fox. It’s a bold and challenging exercise in electroacoustic improvisation but one that succeeds due to the resourcefulness, imagination, and sensitivity of its creators. Pateras and Fox utilize analogue and digital equipment, and their sonic arsenal encompasses voice, synths, assorted percussive sources (like music boxes and contact mics), and electronics. Much of it sounds as if it was recorded in real-time with digital treatments enacted throughout, and with a modicum of enhancements applied thereafter. The recording exudes a palpable physicality in its treatments of the human voice, in spite of the severe transformations to which it’s subjected; consequently the pieces retain a humanized rootedness as opposed to being aloof exercises in abstract sound.
The opening “Vox Erratum” signifies immediately that the listener is in for a challenging ride. It’s an auspiciously brief episode full of choking and snorting vocalizing, conjoined with buzzing, feedback, and assorted other scrambled noises; perhaps this is what their purported incorporation of ‘ingested microphones’ sounds like. A convincing aural simulation of a spatial environment initiates “44 Degree Splinter” with quietly intensifying sweeping and knocking sounds. A sense of real-time improvisation is created, with Pateras and Fox carefully building an ambient soundscape full of eerie bowing and scraping. Piano strings are stretched and plucked, followed by an insectoid tactile clatter that grows into an incredibly visceral sound world. “Cranking the Dwarf” is a nightmarish, explosive maelstrom that subsides into a state of amplified breathing and percussion. “Circuits & Glass” is probably the least accessible track, filled as it is with detonating crackles and strangulations, and passages of huge cavernous echo besieged by squealing wails of feedback. After the ear-splitting extremes of “Circuits & Glass,” the recording wisely ends on a calmer note with “Recombinant,” its gamelan chimes and tinklings massing to simulate the stillness of a scorched post-apocalyptic landscape.
A constant sense of invention permeates Coagulate as its pieces unfold according to preordained compositional strategies that also, however, accommodate substantial exploration along the way. Four of the six pieces are in the ten to fourteen minute range, indicating the extent to which tracks unfold in an unhurried, organic manner. Admittedly there are numerous passages which verge on chaos, suggestive of aural meltdown; certainly Coagulate isn’t easy listening and needless to say it’s resolutely uncommercial. Yet it would be incorrect to characterize it as a relentless barrage. Instead, abrasive sections are counterbalanced by quieter sequences which still, however, exemplify an incessantly immersive preoccupation with sound texture. Ultimately, it’s the tension maintained throughout between predetermination and improvisation that gives the recording a feeling of spontaneity and unpredictability that makes for engaging if exhausting listening.
Reviewed by: Ronald Schepper
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01