Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best Albums of 2011 #10 Eli Keszler - Cold Pin (REL)

Sound artist and multipercussionist Eli Keszler's seems to be fascinated by producing overwhelming noise with no electronics. Rather than twiddling knobs like many of his contemporaries, Keszler's approach is mechanical-acoustic. For Cold Pin, Keszler took 14 strings ranging from 3 to 25 feet in length and installed them on one of the curved walls of Boston's domed cyclorama of the Battle of Gettsyburg. Motors were installed on the strings which were subsequently connected to a series of micro-controllers, pick-ups and rca cables. For this installation, the motors were employed to strike the strings, creating ferocious, resonant, percussive attacks at often earsplitting volume. The result is richly textured and a fascinating study in using natural environments and non-electronic approaches to explore the outer limits of what is traditionally seen as noise music. This album version of Cold Pin features one lengthy track that's just a recording of Keszler operating the motors to attack the strings. It's blazing, shrill, brittle and cacophonous, an almost overwhelming listen. The other track, also recorded live, features a lineup of additional musicians improving alongside Keszler's strings. Keszler himself plays drums, crotales installation and guitar, the great Geoff Mullen plays guitar, Ashley Paul plays clarinet, guitar, and greenbox, trumpeter extraordinaire Greg Kelley has his horn, Reuben Son is on bassoon, and Benjamin Nelson plays cello. While the strings alone are fascinating, with this killer lineup the installation gets taken to a whole new level. The human and the mechanical meld together into roaring, spasmodic clusters of sound. With intensely, unabashedly noisy dissonance and punchy harmonic sustain the ear melting noisescape conjured up by these musicians against the backdrops of Keszler's installation is ferocious and just plain awesome.

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