There's always a great degree of mystery hovering in the air whenever names like John Duncan and Z'EV are featured in a release. But if they're joined by Michael Esposito, an expert in Electronic Voice Phenomena whose family roots belong to the same tree of Alfred Vail (co-inventor of the Morse Code), the haze surrounding the implied meanings becomes even thicker. This LP comprises two fine examples of exploration of the area where reality and imagination merge with a strong aid from the listener's psyche, the result's efficacy depending on its inherent predispositions and overall level of stress. Side A contains a piece originally conceived for an installation, a pre-recorded voice on a reel-to-reel machine eerily whispering a text in a room so cold that the participants might freeze if not wearing heavy jackets. The multiplicity of dimensions is expressed through a progression starting with irregular "industrial" emissions preceding Duncan's nearly toneless accent reciting the words. Subsequently, we experience a gradual descent towards an underworld of perceived threat, the American's renowned shortwave treatments appearing as a vibrational equalizer of sorts. The second track was entirely built by using thirty seconds of EVPs captured by Esposito at Duncan's childhood home in Chicago, the story being that the current owner first accepted then declined the duo's visit aimed at doing some recordings. Apparently, during the conversation in which the EVPs were taped, medium Heidi Harman heard Duncan's name called several times. Z'EV's assembling work enhances the ghostly traits of the whole, stretching the phonemes and layering them in a haunting tapestry of very few lights and many shadows.
-- Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
Duncan uses voice, feedback and shortwave radio. Part of it was used in a performance. A spooky haunting piece here. The voice has a ghostly sound, like unclear mumblings, occasionally leaping into feedback, while the shortwave isn't barely noticeable. I haven't heard much from Duncan in recent years but this is a great piece, not to be played in the dark if you are afraid of such things. On the other side Z'EV uses 18 'EVP invocations', totaling thirty seconds, stretching them out over eight tracks, which I guess is these days a more common technique for Z'EV when it comes to solo studio work. These 'EVP invocations' were recorded by Esposito in John Duncan's childhood home (to tie matters together, conceptually) and make up a likewise haunting piece of time stretched vocal sounds. Haunting but [not] as haunting as the other side. This is more common ground in the work of dark atmospheric music. Common but likewise a great piece of music. A fine ghostly, disturbing nature is behind both of these pieces. Excellent and pleasantly spooky.
Franz de Waard, Vital Weekly #794 August 2011
Really fucking spooky! Of course, we wouldn't expect much less from John Duncan, whose sound research specifically seeks out the most intense of psychological states. As the most infamous case, Duncan's Blind Date performance piece tells of his presumed experience with necrophilia as a masochistic ritual for depositing his last seed in a dead body before undergoing a vasectomy. While the audio documentation of Blind Date is cold and precise in what it says, Duncan neither confirms nor denies any of the details beyond what is told in that recording. It could have been a fabrication; but he plants the idea that he *might* have broken the most significant taboo of human civilization. Since then, Duncan's psychological research through sound, visual art, and performance has become far more sophisticated in approach and content. For example, there's his convoluted Pynchonesque album Our Telluric Conversation with CM von Hausswolff, and there's the masterful recapitulation of the sounds from the Stanford Linear Accelerator into The Crackling - a cavernous, sublime electric chorale which magnify the smallest of particles into massive discordant drones.
There Must Be A Way Across This River was a performance / installation that Duncan presented inside a refrigerated basement at a performance hall in Bologna, where he presented a slow-developing soundtrack of arctic drones layered with darkly vibrating shortwave patterns, whispered declarations from Duncan himself, and these strange violent bursts of electronic noise. While he never stated this to be the case, we wonder if he demanded that the audience be naked, as he has done for a handful of his other claustrophobic, black-box performances. That might have been even too cruel for Duncan! The sounds of There Must Be A Way Across This River are relatively subtle for Duncan's catalogue of work, but they are darkly evocative, eerie, bleak, and ominously threatening. Another very strong piece in his ever impressive body of work.
The flip side of the record is a strange collaboration between Duncan, Z'EV, and the EVP hunter Michael Esposito. Originally, Esposito, Duncan, and the medium Heidi Harman set out to make recordings in Duncan's childhood home outside of Chicago. Despite making arrangements with one of the occupants at the house, they were refused access, all the while Esposito was recording their conversations. During those recordings, 18 EVP invocations occurred, one of which addresses Duncan by name - an allegation that Harman confirmed through her own psychic contact. These 18 invocations were then given over to Z'EV who manipulated them into a suitably frightening set of interwoven drones and spectral undulations. If that particular EVP citation of Duncan's name is on these recordings, Z'EV has thoroughly eradicated the syntax into a slippery, ectoplasmic sound. It's one of the best things we've heard from Z'EV outside his kinetic percussive assaults, and rounds out a terrifyingly great piece of wax!
Taken from Aquarius Records
There Must be a Way Across this River was performed in a refrigerated basement and includes Duncan's voice, shortwave radio and a room-length loop of open-reel tape. The entire piece sounds as chilling as the room it was conceived in, with bursts of feedback, bleak drones and a frigid whisper. For The Abject, Michael Esposito (a world-renowned expert in Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVP) accompanied Duncan to his childhood home to make some field recordings. The resulting EVP invocations were then handed to Z'EV for post-processing. The Abject's textured drones reveal nothing of the source material, instead sounding like smeared ectoplasm and a ghostly cacophony. Pure, outright dread has never sounded so good.
Bryon Hayes, Exclaim