Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Murray Royston-Ward

My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors Near my House
CDR + 2 x A5 Booklet.
80 Copies.

Language is a Virus
CDR + A5 Booklet.
30 Copies.

Improvisations 2014
A5 Booklet.
50 copies.

Murray Royston-Ward - Dissolution Matrix in Afterthought of Skies

The Sons of David Ginola - Blood Too Thick Symptoms
3” CDR + Booklet.
50 copies.

There are times when I feel as if I should get to grips once more with a ‘difficult’ novel. I become intrigued by them and the polarised reviews they garner on Amazon and Goodreads and once more think myself ready to tackle something by William Gaddis or Alexander Theroux. And when the book arrives I get about halfway through it and think to myself ‘well ... maybe I’ll pick up something by Bukowksi and come back to this later when my brain has sorted itself out’. My current obsession is with William Gass and while I’m tempted by his first novel ‘Omensetter’s Luck’ and the it-took-almost-thirty-years-to-finish ‘The Tunnel’ I think I’ll hang on until June when there’s a compendium of his work out. At the moment I’m reading ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’ which is the sort of novel that demands your attention and could easily be described as ‘difficult’ but that's mainly because its written in an 18th century style and deviates more than a drunk Italian driver. At least its got some laughs in it.

Unlike reading listening doesn’t demand total concentration. Few are those who can sit and listen to an LP or a composition and give it their 100% total concentration. You can listen to music while walking, running, shagging, washing the car and doing the shopping but you cant do any of those while trying to fathom the intricacies and the sub plots of Gravity’s Rainbow [unless you’ve got the audio book - which might make the weekly trip to Lidl slightly surreal/more interesting - somebody please do this and report back. I’d do it myself but I find wandering around in public with things jammed in my ears rather disconcerting].
All this apropos of nothing much other than leading in to what Murray Royston-Ward creates which might be described in certain circles as ‘difficult’ and in others as Sir Richard Bishop jamming with some audio verite tapes.

Described on one of his two websites as ‘Material flows and internal communications from the amateur avant-garde’ Royston-Ward collects field recordings some of which he works into improvisations of his own making others of which are left unadulterated. As in ‘My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors Near my House’ which comes with two books, one titled ‘Bangladesh Listening Notes’ describing the noise levels in various parts of Dhaka and Royston-Ward’s attempt to find ‘quiet sounds’, something he eventually loses interest in due to the constant noise pollution. The other book is called ‘Gasworks Fellowship’ and describes his month long residency at the Britto Arts Trust in Dhaka and his increasing vulnerability as the rise of Islamic extremism results in the deaths of several  foreign nationals. The accompanying CD is a collection of disparate sounds ranging from the slaughter of cattle, to conversations with locals, to locals singing all mixed in with bowed cymbals, the inevitable traffic noise and Royston-Ward wandering around the Britto gallery space sucking on glass doors. The results being spacious, loose and liminal.

‘Language as a Virus’ as you’d expect draws from William Burroughs concept of the same name and details the work Royston-Ward’s wife did in an Ebola holding center in Sierra Leone. The booklet is a collection of photos as taken by Holly Royston-Ward alongside text describing the situation there. The CD is a single 28 minute track that is a series of rapid radio and tv samples [some relating to Ebola] over which Royston-Ward recites tracts of text [taken from news stories?] also relating to the subject. Its a tough listen with each sample and tract of text ending abruptly with a violent slap/stop as if Royston-Ward is hitting the stop button on his cassette player with a lump of wood.

The two stand-alone releases highlight Royston-Ward’s penchant for sounding like Sir Richard Bishop and the hitting of pipes and steel wires. The Sons of David Ginola release ‘Blood Too Thick Symptoms’ is a collaboration with Kevin Sanders and contains many a lo-fi rumbling, humming, squeaking, squelching Alvin Lucier homage while ‘Dissolution Matrix in Afterthought of Skies’ sees Royston-Ward mix wind flutter, chair scrapes and pub chat with electric guitar frottage and tape wobble. Like Jim O’Rourke playing pool with a guitar swinging from his neck. Track six ‘Loose Women’ sounds like a Sonic Youth rehearsal as a conversation in Esperanto goes in reverse.

All of the above comes highly recommended, even the Ebola related work should you have the stamina for it. Royston-Ward also utilizes recycled paper for his books, ‘archival inks’ [whatever they might be] and environment friendly plastics for their packaging. So all is good. Not quite. Why the Bangladeshi project had to come with two separate books I cant fathom while Bangladeshi Listening Notes also contained notes from Brighouse [just down the road from me] London and Edinburgh. The use of acronyms also bugs me, its why I never joined the army, I have no idea what CNG’s or SPL’s are, Sound Protection Levels? Cars Not Guns? Cocks Not Glocks? There’s also a series of pictures taken from an unexplained exhibition visit, one displaying the mutilated corpse of a child, oh what fun and a cut up poem which I couldn’t skim through quick enough. The Improvisations 2014 book would have been of far more worth had it come with a CD of the sounds created or links to the net where the sounds could be accessed. As a stand alone book detailing the time, place and instrumentation, its only of passing interest.

Having said all that the sounds herein are eminently worthwhile and show that Royston-Ward has the ear for the juxtaposition of disparate sounds, his prose is crystal clear too. At least they’re both here to tell the tale. After having survived the threat of ISIS and Ebola I doubt that me being a tad disparaging is going to upset them. Now where's my book.    


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