[ reviews ]

nowhere57. tddm [ rec. 2001-2005 ]

> rel. 2008 - CD Sonoris, France (website)
Francisco López & Michael Gendreau - "tddm" (CD Sonoris, France 2008)
Looking at the sparse credits on the cover this seems not to be a collaborative effort, but both deliver two long pieces entirely based on their own recordings of machines in Taiwan and Malaysia (Gendreau) and Singapore, China, Taiwan and Japan (López). In the first López piece he comes close to the old Vivenza sound: hammering machine rhythms with lots of sound effects to transform the sound, but his other is entirely different. Very low in volume, and the sounds of the machines seem to be pushed to the background. There is a sense of rhythm to it, but it sounds quite strange. Ultimately, in fine Lópezian twist, things go up and the real machines comes in and as suddenly disappear. In the two pieces by Micheal Gendreau machine sounds play, obviously I say, a role too, but somehow he seems to be interested to create 'more music' out of it, especially in 'M928', with its organ like tones comes in and out of the piece, before it slips into silence first and then into noise. The first piece by him has a similar built-up but a different ending. Four different sides of the same coin. Excellent stuff, but I don't think I expected something else. Vital Weekly (The Netherlands), January 2009

Francisco López & Michael Gendreau - "tddm" (CD Sonoris, France 2008)
Since 2006, many worthy labels have either fallen into depression or ceased production altogether. Franck Laplaine's Sonoris continues to push out releases at a snail's pace (roughly a disc per year) from a very personalized operation. A look back through the Sonoris catalog shows quite the range, and the envelope has widened even still with TDDM. Its predecessor, the self-titled Bowline (late 2007), was beautiful and airy, like unearthed early 20th C. composition, albeit with experimental materials. This latest release is a challenging step in another direction entirely.

Gendreau and López's set (two discs, with two tracks from each musician) is indeed musical, yet with nary an ounce of the traditional that can be found even in today's expanse of technique- and ground-building. There was some foreshadowing years back (our aughts, not Russolo's) that pointed to a rise in field recordings and an enlightened embrace of the raw environment. Now that we are relatively immersed in the use of such recordings - its incorporation is happening all over the map, literally - the time is nigh to re-examine/reconsider just what it means, relative to what musicians feel must be expressed. In a recent discussion here, it was noted that catalogs tend to be a couple of years behind the now. Punctuating that case, the recordings here were captured from '92 to '04, with final masters completed in 2005. Perhaps the artists felt there wasn't a perceived audience for such material in 2001. Or maybe in getting re-acquainted with their recordings, a concern arose for the proper documentation of such experiments. Listening to TDDM, we're not likely to find any convenient answers, much less a breakthrough, but it's a pleasant ambiguity nonetheless.

Michael Gendreau has been geeking on ma-made sound sources for years now, most notably in the West Bay Area's Crawling With Tarts, where dc motors and linkage belts took an early place alongside more accepted instrumentation. These days he's involved with installations and exploitations - with a keen interest in the rumblings of industrial equipment and machines, and the rooms and loading bays they inhabit, examining the emissions down to the micropascal (man-crush developing here). López joins him with his own adjacent study, stepping away from the static storms of his electronics-oriented work. The two have collaborated before with the same approach, but TDDM is a project specific to the sounds of some Asian factories, with Gendreau sampling the room, and López the machines.

"T921″ and "M928″ belong to Gendreau, presumably named for having been recorded in Taiwan and Malaysia, respectively. "T921″ captures plainly the sound environment of a single factory, the microphones placed in such a way to pull the faintest reverberations from the room, yet with incredible detail to accommodate the recording of multiple, individual seeds making their fateful way along and off of a conveyor belt. The variety of sound in this track is compelling - the sequences are placed such that Gendreau has designed a seamless 30+ minute "best of" for the day in the life of one musty industrial bay. ""M928″ is more rhythm-oriented. An equally long and robust piece, Gendreau focuses here on the pulse of the machinery in some astonishing sonic depth. These are big, powerful machines playing kill-by-numbers, and we play voyeur to an array of functionary dispositions: the cyclical carrying out of production requirements, and transitional segues marking start-ups, shut-downs and mode shifting.

López samples the machines themselves, be it individual moving parts or the cavities encasing critical synchronized components. In the process he's used (I presume) an omni-directional mic to marry the internal with the external happenings. We're treated to spurious IC communications that issue orders in Asian tongues, as well as working bells and machine-related sirens. López chooses to leave no sense of mystery to the environment. While there is no mistake that Gendreau and López are in the same business here, the latter's recordings come off more tactile, effectively displacing his subjects and planting them right here in our homes. "D138″ contains a fairly extensive segment with stereo-effected motor whines and the ventilation that serves to cool the gear. On its own this bit is both meditative and disorienting (another reason earplugs are a necessity in such workplaces), but reality snaps back with a gentle IC alert.

The tracks aren't without a small number of unintended captures. Wind noise is clearly heard as a group of workers walk past one of the microphones, and in at least one segment the noise floor shifts as adjustments are made to accommodate the sudden halt of machinery. But "accidents" are often as integral to the listening experience as the choice bits, lending some individuality and reminding of the sincere interests and efforts of the composer. Together these four pieces deliver something archival and undeniably musical. It's a success in itself that two individuals (one in Madrid, one in San Francisco) should independently pursue their own intentions, share the same underlying interests, and come up with such a unique and listenable collaborative project. www.bagatellen.com, February 2009

Francisco López & Michael Gendreau - "tddm" (CD Sonoris, France 2008)
In times like the ones we live in, contrasts are at the basis of everyday life and nothing more than a working place showcases them. Think, for example, to the difficulties typical of the relationships with colleagues, or to the mind-boggling irrationality in the combination of routine procedures, extreme noise and vocal exchanges commonly found in a factory. This is a good starting point for the appreciation of Tddm, a double CD comprising four long segments chock full of deafening environments and thunderous machines interspersed by exceptionally rare moments in which a faint human presence – or an intercom message - is perceived amidst the continuous threat of the mechanical monsters.

The recordings were made in Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Japan, as to homage the renowned toughness of certain Asian labourers, used to the hardest sacrifices yet frequently swallowed by a sense of duty that represents both a stimulus to exemplary productivity and the reason for nervous instability and, ultimately, suicide in the nastiest instances. This might remind someone of Phill Niblock’s films, where infinite drones accompany the images of people performing manual works but this release is much less rewarding in terms of adjacent-frequency nirvanas. López and Gendreau share the discs with a piece each, having separately collected sonorities that range from massively static to heavily rhythmic. Theirs is a coldly detached view of the ambience from which this stuff is originated: the raw materials remain for the large part untreated (even though some degree of editing seems to typify particularly reiterative parts), only the definitive dynamics decided by the assemblers. Describing what happens in detail is utterly pointless, although the first section of López’s “D138” is transfixing to say the least, profound reverberations and vacillating auricular membranes the by-product of a superior susceptibility to the propagation of sonic waves.

The monolithic qualities of the captured sounds reveal a series of acoustic sub-particles attributing to the record its “musical” characteristics. This is actually another functional contrast: the clunking mass, the violent thudding, the constant racket of roaring apparatuses that, especially at the beginning of Gendreau’s “T921” gives the false idea that airport echoes are being heard, are in effect “minimalist” according to a heartless repetitiveness absurdly determining a sort of hypnosis, the brain cuddled by the booming resonance of these monotonous cycles. In turn, a disproportion with the tremendous amount of physical and mental tension surely experienced by the plant’s personnel during their shifts.

Indeed, should a single album be labelled as a paradigm of “industrial music”, this would have to be it. But Gendreau and López are not Esplendor Geometrico or Maurizio Bianchi: they are authentic composers who in this circumstance chose to use alienation as the principal factor in a project whose distressing temperament must not detract from a tangible value. One has to learn to find musicality down to the apparently inaccessible lower spheres of clangour, and there’s no doubt that this nice pair mostly succeed in letting us crave the mere illusion of a tiny light at the end of a massacring experience. www.touchingextremes.com (Italy) , September 2009.