Friday, June 8, 2012

Kevin Corcoran - Haptic Music [Weird Forest]

This is one of my favorite tapes from last year. I gave it the blurb treatment but I've been putting off writing an actual review because I don't know what the hell I can say about this. I mean I could gush and gush about my love for this cassette (which will most likely happen, just you wait) but that hardly makes for great reading. I don't think there are any great insights I can provide you with, dear readers, I just really want you to hear this tape.
Kevin Corcoran is the same dude on my Kevin & Chad and DMPH 7"s and also played in Antennas Erupt! but this is his first time ever releasing solo material. My initial reaction is "WHY DID THIS TAKE SO LONG?!???" The shit on this tape is simply incredible, dude's been playing for a while so why the hell have we been deprived of this? Mr. Corcoran, you have some explaining to do.
Corcoran was not s-ing around when he named this thing Haptic Music. The tape is all about evoking friction and resonance through the human touch. This is physical music.
Using percussion and some sort of electro-magnetic amplification on "Like a Thought Hangs," Corcoran concocts these strange clipped emissions. The attack and decay of each sound is totally weird and garbled. Certain sounds create the illusion of stuttering or skipping, others provide brief but violent scrapes, some pitter-patter harmlessly. I'm not sure if there was any live-processing or how Corcoran went about achieving his timbres but the sounds collide in such a measured yet still caustic manner that he imbues a great tension in the track that's sustained over its duration.
Throughout the piece, Corcoran juxtaposes these sounds with silence or near-silence. A quiet tone may feedback gently and hang in the air, or a barely-present thump may whisper and sigh or sometimes there's simply nothing at all. Or you get a loud thwack or a serrated slash of bowed metal, the rattle of a bell, a sustaining cymbal, the creak (or squeak) of surface friction. At it's brief but furious climax, "Like a Thought Hangs" even approaches harsh noise.
Corcoran employs the vernacular of jazz and free-improvisation but ultimately Haptic Music feels a lot like avant-garde composition. I know far too little about 20th century composers to draw adequate comparisons, but Corcoran's work here is very principled and disciplined in its approach to such raw sounds.
I'm still not sure whether this is mind expanding or mind imploding but either way this is one of the best ways to spend 20 minutes that I've encountered in a while; I recommend listening, with headphones, late at night while lying on the floor in a darkened room.
On the next side, the title track continues the vibe of "Like a Thought Hangs" but it's shorter and more compressed. Silence still plays an important, but much less pronounced, role. Corcoran bends the pitches of drum heads, working largely with rounder tones like chiming bells and the smooth reverberations of a floor tom.
"A Drift of Dim Light" for all intents and purposes is a drone piece. I figure that there must be a bow in play somewhere on the track but predominantly I think Corcoran is working with soft, rapid hits (of cymbals most likely) that are amplified into drones. It's a very nice piece and, of the three, probably the one the average listener would be most likely to respond to. And while it is quite nice, I prefer the direct tactile action of the first two tracks to its smoother, obscured resonance.
The tape is austere and it's mesmerizing. There's a certain type of person (such as moi) who will go apeshit over this sort of thing and, damn, if it doesn't feel great to be that type of person. As far as I am concerned there is not near enough avant-garde solo percussion music out there (there can never be enough)--particularly kinds such as this that detonate the common role associated with percussionists, that of a rhythm-generator (which is not to take anything away from that role.) With that said, Haptic Music is a great reminder that rhythm isn't only beats but also the spaces between beats, the interplay between sound and it's absence. Corcoran's parsing and dismantling of rhythm proves to be as dynamic and engaging as anything I've heard.
Long sold out at Weird Forest but try here or here

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