THE NAZCA TRANSMISSIONS




John Duncan states somewhat disingenuously in the sleevenotes that the source material for this latest release -- purportedly a set of sonifications of geomagnetic phenomena recorded on the site of Peru's Nazca hieroglyphics -- is probably a hoax. But if it is the case, as Duncan asserts, that this doesn't really matter, would it not have been preferable for the results to be presented free of its irrelevant contextual baggage? Or is Duncan perhaps subtly taking the mickey out of the (commercial?) need for non-figurative soundworks to be hitched to a juicy central conceit? As always with Duncan, he delivers music of great substance. The five pieces here are richly detailed and seductive exercises in evolving texture, less harsh than you might expect, and possibly, if you're in a sufficiently credulous state of mind, suggestive of the fantastical. The endless glissandi that feature heavily on the second side recall Stockhausen's Hymnen; now there was a composer who enjoyed a bit of quasi-mystical obfuscation.
-- Keith Moliné, THE WIRE, March 2010


Nobody better than John Duncan is aware of the subtle line separating actual events from the ones generated by the mind, especially if the latter is altered by a state of anxiousness or discomfort. A body of work that has always privileged probing first and questioning later; moreover, very few of our needs of further understanding have been satisfied, which is probably why his music stands, to this day, as a distressing experience for the unqualified listener. This man exploits anything deemed able to cause a response from an audience, whatever it may be; the result is invariably a reason for the cognoscenti to celebrate, and become even more curious.

Just google name and recordís title to find about the circumstances that brought to the birth of this LP, whose foundation was established between the end of 2004 and 2005. In short, after a brief email exchange, JD received a set of sounds ≠ allegedly recorded at the renowned Nazca Lines site (Peru) ≠ from a mysterious German archaeologist hypothetically named Anton Düder who was interested in a sonic collaboration on the same grounds of Infrasound-Tidal, a prior release based on Densil Cabrera's telluric input. Duncan agreed, fascinated by the uniqueness of those emissions, and started to subject the materials to his customary modification processes. Problematic life occurrences then caused several delays, and when he tried to get back in touch with Düder to let him listen to the finished product, there was no reply whatsoever ≠ and, furthermore, a computer crash erased the pairís earlier correspondence. This recording, and a series of meticulous technical annotations (reprinted in the album's inside leaflet) are the relationshipís sole residues.

The previous paragraphís content is not useful to understand what youíll hear in The Nazca Transmissions. Its character, in classic Duncan style, tends to zones situated halfway through a "tangibly subterranean" physicality and an unfathomable impenetrability. Startling rumbles, rustling activities, pressurized ellipses, currents that seem to come from an incineratorís bowels, something like a demon's heavy breathing, ultra-acute frequencies that experts of shortwave radio should recognize. Elements that can be defined as "familiar" for those who follow this controversial artistís career since the beginnings, but are still the conditio sine qua non for disposing of the trivialities that certain composers stuff in our mouth, speaking of absolute truths while counting the money of the umpteenth commission, and starting to realize what the possibilities of concrete evolution in terms of acoustic manifestations are, regardless of aesthetics and expectations, only led by the interest in being and becoming. Which type of matter, which kind of energy, it remains to be seen. Thereís no time left for additional mental bullshit, for the molecules of authentic knowledge are here to showcase their power of corporeal infiltration ≠ and Duncan definitely knows how to handle the ensuing shocks.
-- Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes