LP release by Black Truffle of Duncan's epic early work for voice, shortwave and field recordings made in Amsterdam
Cover design by Stephen O'Malley
Sonic provocateur John Duncan has made a career through leaps into the unknown. During the heyday of Los Angeles performance art (i.e. Chris Burden, Paul McCarthy, etc.), Duncan conceived of a number of projects that deliberately antagonized his audience through perceived violence and shattered taboos. At the same time, he began exploring the empty channels on shortwave radio where unsettling noise, silence and crackle could propagate. He was particularly intrigued by the psychological colorings of the sounds that often reflected dread, anxiety and paranoia - themes that were commonplace in his performance pieces.
Duncan's first works were published in conjunction with the Los Angeles Free Music Society, with whom he performed on occasion in various ensembles. His work began to really blossom upon a decision around 1981 to leave America for Japan, a place where he knew no one and where he knew nothing of the language. His work with radio began in earnest both as a source material and as a platform for pirate radio broadcasts. By the end of the decade, he relocated once again, this time to Amsterdam to begin a fruitful series of collaborations with Andrew McKenzie (a.k.a. The Hafler Trio). Shortwave radio was still prominent, with his compositions becoming more complex and nuanced.
Klaar was first published on the Australian imprint Extreme in 1990. The aforementioned McKenzie contributes various field recordings, with Duncan lacing those amidst long-form collages of blank static, distant signals detuned into smeared vibration and swells of electric noise. The relative calm of the album's proceedings belie the implied threat within Klaar. Duncan actively seeks to reflect a psychic, subliminal violence within society through the unintended artifacts of commonplace technologies. Here, the existentially nihilist agenda is to spook through the haunted radio. Klaar, along with much of his catalogue that spans three decades, remains a remarkable work of spectral electro-acoustics.
And for the first time, Klaar is pressed on vinyl. Highest recommendation.
Jim Haynes, Stranded
Mantra / Ur Sonate LiveiDEAL 167
Limited edition CD in 200 numbered copies released by iDEAL
John Duncan vocals, field recordings
Vocals recorded at Pieve del Pino, Bologna.
Onsite recordings made by John Duncan at Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, Assergi.
Composed at Pieve del Pino.
Premiered live at Oboro, Montreal for Immerson7 produced by France Jobin and Oboro.
Written by Kurt Schwitters
Arranged and performed live by John Duncan with participants on 4 March, 2017 at Narkissos Contemporary Art Gallery, Bologna.
Inspired by a suggestion from Francesco Cossù.
Bruno Armeni, Sofia Braga, Alarico Bruni, Christian Capone, Ingrid Checchi, Edoardo de Cobelli, Yelena Mitrjushkina, Ivan Pjevcevic, Giusy Ranieri, Carlo Ronchetti, Davide Tozzoli, Nicola Vinciguerra, Massimiliano Zani.
Cover photo © Gillian Leigh Bowling
Live video stream
Produced by Yelena Mitrjushkina for Narkissos Contemporary Art Gallery, Bologna.
Mantra is a choral drone that is highly capturing and transcendent. Also used as the soundtrack for Duncan's video HORROR OBSOLETE: Endless Mardi Gras
Ur Sonate is a classic sound poem by dadaist Kurt Schwitters composed between 1922-1932.
This album is something new for Duncan, but also in a way connected to his BITTER EARTH album for iDEAL.