Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Marinos Koutsomichalis - Malfunctions [Agxivatein]

It's no accident Greek artist Marinos Koutsomichalis named this CD-r Malfunctions. There's a lengthy artist statement included with the disc which ends with Koutsomichalis stating the goal of the release was to "listen to all those sounds that were not meant-to-be."
The first of seven untitled tracks is a very minimal drone affair using synthetic tones that sound pretty normal to me. Though I guess I may have a skewed sense of "normal" compared to most other people. That seems to be the point Koutsomichalis is trying to make though, that what are perceived as malfunctions are not limitations inherent to the machine but limitations projected by the person using or experiencing the object. The second track is a lot louder and thicker. Electronics spit a variety of "malfunctions," spluttering tones, white noise, jittery, crunchy loops. It's a very dimensional piece of work and Koutsomichalis definitely put a lot of work into the mixing and arranging of the piece. All the interweaving layers, enter at different volume levels, drop in volume or out completely to return later. There's a very methodical use of dynamics, despite the constant changes, Koutsomichalis develops a complete continuity to the piece and its rhythms. The third track is a single tone percussively stuttering and sputtering in a haphazard way. I really can't tell if there is any manipulation here or if Koutsomichalis is just leaving the tone to its own devices. I'm gonna go with the former but it could go either way. Koutsomichalis seems to be most at home with a lot of sounds as the next track is an excellently dense and noisy trip. The thing just throbs, sick with static, incinerating everything in site. It maintains this constant heaviness while still throwing plenty of curve balls, but ultimately all of the malfunctioning electronics are whipped right back into shape. What really surprises me about the piece, and one of the reasons why its so great, is that for a bunch of malfunctioning sounds this piece is really melodic. There isn't a melody per se, but Koutsomichalis organizes the piece in a very consonant way letting the piece move smoothly despite the seriously jagged texture. Damn fine work. The next track continues the minimal/maximal pattern with a minimal piece of snaps, crackles and pops. This one gains a simple polyrhythm after a while based on one machine making something akin to the tick tock of a pocketwatch. The next track is another noisy one, which also the first place on the record to engage in loopy, squiggly hi-pitched frequencies. The eight minute finale looms along in a constant state of agitated, prickly static. There's vague movement underneath, but you only get intimations of it which draws you deeper and deeper into the piece. It doesn't change a whole lot, but its mystery never fades either. It's a great note to go out on.
Though the minimal experiments aren't as strong, Koutsomichalis is a fantastically adept "noise artist;" he knows how to sculpt/carve/whatever with pure noise and make it compelling. That's not something I can say about many people.
Edition of 72, available from Koutsomichalis's label, Agxivatein.

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