Not sympathy in the sentimental sense. Sympathetic vibration has nothing to do with the personal or emotional. For Helmholtz, it meant transduction of energy, resonance induced in a body – a room, a building, a glass, an eyeball – by an external force. At its resonant, or natural, frequency a body ceases to dampen energy and begins to oscillate with it, amplifying it, even to the point of self destruction.
A 40-minute, sub-centric mix, ahead of my talk (Bass: A Myth-Science of the Sonic Body) at this year’s Electric Fields festival. So much discussion about bass focuses on dancefloor material, so this mix goes the other direction, collecting a series of low-frequency investigations into industrial and earthly hum, pure tones, pipe organs, peculiarities of bodily resonance, and overlapping fictions of sound and signal. Listen loud. To borrow Eleh’s instruction: Volume reveals detail.
MP3: DOWNLOAD (320kbps / 95Mb)
TRACKS & NOTES:
Demdike Stare ‘Suspicious Drone’ (Modern Love)
“…a dense 6 minute opening that chugs along like a malfunctioning mechanical beast, honing in on Lancashire’s dark industrial landscapes.” Following on the heels of labels like Mordant Music, Skull Disco and Ghost Box, Demdike Stare wed body-humming sound system sensibilities and (occasional) frenzied percussion, with smatterings of occulture and Radiophonic hauntology.
Bass Communion ‘Ghosts on Magnetic Tape III’ Original and Reconstruction (Headphone Dust)
Unsettling vibrations, voices in the ether. Bass Communion looks for spectral encounters in the crackle and grooves of manipulated 78rpm shellacs, drawing equally on theories of the infrasonic uncanny and the peculiar phenomenon of EVP. Supplemented here with excerpts and Raymond Cass commentary from The Ghost Orchid: An Introduction to EVP (Parapsychic Acoustic Research Cooperative/Ash International)
Thomas Köner ‘Permafrost’ and ‘Nieve Penitentes 2’ (Barooni/Type)
More of the ice than about it, Köner’s geologic drone work would sit well alongside John Duncan’s Infrasound-Tidal, NASA’s Voice of Earth, and the tremor tones of Mark Bain. The theme is The North, but these aren’t field recordings. Instead, Köner builds his glacial terrain from the shimmer of pitch-shifted gongs. Augmented here by a dark piece from Ruth White, the little acknowledged American electronic composer who’d have made good company for Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. ‘Mists and Rains,’ from the 1969 album Flowers of Evil, sets the Baudelaire poem to an electronic windscape.
Eleh ‘Together We Are One’ (Taiga)
Anonymous and secretive, Eleh is a minor sonic fiction unto itself, its album art drawing on the retina-skewing experiments of Op Art while minimal sleeve notes give faint clues to method and aims. Titles of the first three releases – Floating Frequencies/Intuitive Synthesis volumes I-III – would seem to sum up the project, reputedly based on the layering of outputs from aging audio test oscillators. Subsequent releases Homage to the Square Wave and Homage to the Sine Wave, along with track names like ‘Pulsing Study Of 7 Sine Waves’ (parts 1 & 2), ‘Phase Two: Bass Pulse In Open Air,’ and ‘Linear To Circular / Vertical Axis,’ are nods to both the minimalist tradition and a clinically empiricist attitude toward sonic investigation. But others – ‘In The Ear Of The Gods,’ ‘Phase One: Sleeps Golden Drones Again’ – show a mystical side that revels in the autopoietic strangeness of the subbass encounter.
Nate Young ‘Under the Skin’ (iDeal Recordings)
If Eleh finds the mystical in impersonal vibration, Nate Young’s Regression is the sound of signal possessed, angry, and on the move. ‘Under the Skin’ is a churning slog – submerged in a liquid-matter mush, broken occasionally by a taught screech, before resuming its subcutaneous march.
Sunn o))) ‘Sin Nanna’ (Southern Lord)
Metal with bass weight, indebted to the gravity-enhancing sounds of Earth. ‘Sin Nanna’ is a largely guitar-free interlude, gutteral chanting like the nightmare version of new-agey Gregorian revival. Elsewhere, 2008’s Dømkirke had the band pulling ungodly rumbles from the massive 16th century organ at Rokslide Cathedral, Norway.
Christian Fennesz plays Charles Matthews ‘Amoroso’ (Touch)
And into the light… A 7″ offshoot of Touch Record’s ongoing Spire project (below) which focuses on organ-based and organ-inspired works. 2300 years on, the pipe organ still mystifies. An acoustic synthesizer, one of the earliest machines, it’s clearly been designed to direct force at the body as well as emit musical notes. “Audible at five miles, offensive at two, and lethal at one,” was the contemporary description of the 10th century organ at Winchester said to require 70 men to operate its bellows. Note the mastering credit on this release: Jason Goz at Transition Studios – the name attached to virtually every foundational dubstep release between 2003 and 2006; dubcutter for Jah Shaka, Mickey Finn, Grooverider, DJ EZ, Mala, Loefah, kode9… London bass flows through Transition.
BJNilsen ‘La Petite Chapelle – Rue Basses’ (Touch)
An excerpt from Spire: Live in Geneva Cathedral, Saint Pierre (2005). From the notes: “In a duet with himself, BJNilsen moved back and forth between organ and electronics. He established a link between the old sound inherited from centuries past and a new one being instantly generated. The organ sound was decomposed and in a way, tortured, in order to get at the core of the sound… BJNilsen’s piece ended with a background organ sound, as if to remind us that after all, even if altered, the organ had remained the core of the entire concept.”
Paul Jasen is a PhD candidate in Cultural Mediations at Carleton University. His research focuses on low-frequency sonic experience. He also DJs under the names Autonomic and Mr. Bump. Writing and mixes at Deeptime.net & Riddim.ca.