Sunday, June 30, 2013

Slavek Kwi/Artificial Memory Trace

Artificial Memory Trace - Yellow Varvara & 3 Chants of Constructivism
Tentacles of Perception Recordings
3” CDR

Simon Whetham & Slavek Kwi - Exchanges Across A Dinner Table.
Tentacles of Perception Recordings. 2X3”CDR.
2X3” CDR

Linda O’Keefe & Slavek Kwi - Collaboration 2009-2012
Tentacles of Perception Recordings
3” CDR. 100 Copies.

The last time we crossed paths with Slavek Kwi was with the mighty ‘Ultrealith’ release. Here the sounds of insects, birds and John Cage talking [amongst lots of other elements too] were mixed and composed to produce what Kwi likes to call ‘electroacoustic sound paintings’. Kwi’s gift lies in the way he brings these field recordings together with electroacoustic sounds producing some genuinely ear-popping creations along the way - think gentle drips speeding up and resonating into the distance as the jungle canopy chirrups and tweets in the  the background. Its a love of sound and ‘sounds’, the ‘phenomena of perception as the fundamental determinant of relations with reality’ that drives Kwi endlessly forward.

Kwi was born in former Czechoslovakia and now finds himself living and working in Ireland. His work includes installations, film, radio and the helping of autistic children and children with learning disabilities via the medium of experimental sound. His collaboration with Eric La Casa won a major French prize in 2002.

‘Ultrealith’ appeared under Kwi’s Artificial Memory Trace moniker, its one that has shared releases with the artists as diverse as Brume and M.S.B.R. and is responsible for over 40+ albums. After 27 years of recording and releasing material there’s a lot to catch up on.

But first these lovely little three inch CDR’s that come on vividly printed postcard sized prints via Kwi’s own Tentacles of Perception Recordings.
The collaborations with Linda O’Keefe and Simon Whetham are long gestation affairs with each artist swapping work with Kwi numerous times over a three and five year period. With O’Keefe this began with each artist creating a 30 second piece that was then given to the other artist which was then extended to 10 minutes. This 10 minutes found its way into a 30 minute piece which then found itself transformed into the two tracks we have on ‘Collaborations 2009-12’ with each artists ‘finalzing’ their own pieces. O’Keefe’s finished composition contains baby gurgles, the strum of a stringed instrument, sci-fi elevators disappearing into a star lit sky, bicycle bells, slowed down and speeded up chatter played over each other with a reversed vocal layered over the top of that [or something like that anyway], glass tubes played underwater [sub aqueous recordings being much favoured by Kwi] and the soft pulse and throb of eddying electronic tides. Kwi’s take is much more playful with the crack of a jack socket ripping from nowhere acting as a defibrillator through to a babies ‘oh’ at the sound of a box of table tennis balls hitting a wooden floor. There’s also distant shotgun blasts, party whistles, owls and the chatter of a social gathering as background murmur. There are corresponding references of course, each piece is a wonderfully laid back immersive experience but the delight to be had here is in hearing how each artist has transformed a thirty second piece into something much fuller and of their own.

The collaboration with Whethem took even longer. For five years they swapped files until we arrive at ‘Simslao’ and ‘Slaosim’. With ‘Simslao’ the sounds are more heavily disguised, a more brooding atmosphere of metal detector sweeps, rubbed fabric rhythms, bees and flies before heading off into ambient territories where surfaces are scratched and rain falls into a galvanized bucket. ‘Slaosim’ develops into a deep glitch-a-thon fest where whats going on [whatever it is] appears to be have been given the skipping CD treatment to the point that all's that left are the bare bones of a track, a series of stuttering glitches. Whether this is by design or fault I know not but around the halfway mark the thing began to loop in my CD player, a sound that for according to the CD player clock was looping but actually sounded like it was developing. Weird.

Things are certainly calmer when we return to Kwi’s own AMT outings. ‘Yellow Varvava’ began life in Russia and pays homage to Russian Constructivism with three tracks; Faktura, Tektonika and Chronosion. Once again its a pleasure to don the headphones and immerse myself in Kwi’s work. The mixing of both the natural world and the man-made one gives rise to shuddering bass rumbles, taxi radios blaring local pop music, bird song, PA announcements, subway cars entering a station and throughout it all the bright song of his friends canary.

Its these mixing of the two worlds that makes me want to hear more of this kind of material. Its a world where you need time to contemplate and appreciate it all. A world away from the busy streets and roads and lives that a lot of us career through everyday. Taking time to listen to what these people are doing results in an all round better frame of mind. It does for me anyway. These releases should be made available on prescription for the health of us all. 


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