Reviews: The BLACK ALBUM

One of the most sought-after collector’s items in the domain of noise-based composition is Mirror Pulse, a cassette released on the Australian Extreme imprint in 1990 by the same couple that engendered the subject of this review, a limited edition LP that will plausibly travel a similar path towards a condition of rarity. Not even yours truly, conversant with both artists’ output well before they reached a merited cult status, has ever managed to locate a copy of that tape. Thus I am not risking a poor figure by comparing works separated by a 24-year span.

What this writer is assimilating at this moment — it’s been days now, no “distractions” provided by disjunctive choices — is a hefty 39-minute piece subdivided in three distinct sections. Superficially speaking, the bulk of the sounds might be filed in the “computerized racket” category in virtue of their quick morphological mutation and impulsive shifts. Still, all of them incorporate factors of sympathetic resonance and reiteration that force us to firmly refuse the mere sticking of the worn-out “N” label on something that digs much deeper. To better understand what we mean, headphones are strongly recommended to get inebriated by the myriads of seductively pernicious events pillaging the cochlea.

Duncan is not interested in revealing the sources (though we have learned from a writeup by Thomas Bey William Bailey that some of the recordings were made in an Italian nuclear laboratory). He just hints at the behavioral unusualness of the files once they had been exchanged, modified and put on the hard disk. Add this to the sentence on the press blurb (“The Black Album shows what’s going on in our heads”) and think for a while about what humans do which seems “normal” and instead is bizarre, to say the least.

Let me deepen this concept. One afternoon I was attempting to remain watchful while subjecting myself to the hyperactive qualities of these radiating outpours, but kept falling asleep. The reason is simple, and it’s called “connectedness”. The self-generated intrinsic compatibility proposing to the brain as we were involved in the process of examining the acoustic matter seemed to set in motion peculiar mechanisms leading to unconsciousness. The intimacy with certain types of listening experience is evidently an advantage; the shocking components became somewhat familiar occurrences, to which we relinquished our quivering kernel.

When that transfixing session ended, the fortifying silence of a countryside’s summer was being offended by the blurred echo of a distant karaoke coming from a mid-August social occasion somewhere in the nearby town. Dreadfully out-of-tune voices destroying popular tunes were conveying a single word: despair. Duncan’s above quote suddenly came to mind. Many of those who define themselves as “natural” or “unsophisticated” persons can, in given conditions, do things that in the view of a bona fide psycho-sonic analyst appear as random acts dictated by abnormal mental patterns (usually deriving from a hopeless search for attention). There you go: cheaply “regular” music runs parallel to the exasperation caused by a flat existential structure. On the other side of the coin, the hypothetical termination of conventional audible platforms translates as a sort of access to a blessed sphere.

Unspeakable (pun intended) suggestions, perhaps originating from a particle accelerator, abstractive echoes of industrial activities and, possibly, shortwave processes get violently disintegrated. But from that digitally induced disorder, internal tranquility is inexplicably born. As we learn the regulations of interference, we gain in forbearance when the real perturbation — namely, ordinary people’s enervating conduct — tries to untune us. Akita and Duncan’s work amplifies the perception of a legitimate need to deliver ourselves from the worst kind of authoritarian regime: that of verbalized commonplace and dark-age rational shallowness masked as ultimate truths, and deplorably accepted as such by growingly impotent aggregations.

–Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

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