[ reviews ]

nowhere58. hb [ rec. 2005-2008 ]

> rel. 2009 - CD Baskaru, France (website)
Francisco López & Lawrence English - "hb" (CD Baskaru, France 2008)
The Mystery of Sound Francisco López - the most mysterious sound artist ever, the man who has elevated aural enigma and sonic displacement to artform status - joins forces with Lawrence English, a leading figure of the Australian experimental music scene, for a puzzling CD.

What is HB? "It's two quite unusual found sound pieces and two musique concrète works based on each other's works," explains English. In other words, López and English each submitted to the other a field recording piece, then composed a new piece from the other guy's field recording. The result is resolutely sombre going on obscurantist.: occulted birdsongs, unidentified tremors, delicate but disquieting sounds from a jungle that could be either of the wild or urban kind. This soundworld lies somewhere between mystery and mystification.

Francisco López is globally acknowledged as one of experimental music's main creative forces. Relying on a deep listening of the world around us, his music translates into a physical experience of hearing and sound. Also an installation artist and theoretician, he performs all over the world. At his concerts, the audience is usually blindfolded.

Lawrence English is a sound and visual artist, composer, critic, festival organizer, record producer (Tujiko Noriko, Tenniscoats, The Rational Academy) and label head (Room40). He explores the limits of perception and the relationship between sound and structure. His recent CD Kiri No Oto (Touch, 2008) has garnered critical acclaim. HB is his second release on Baskaru, following For Varying Degrees of Winter in 2007. www.baskaru.com (January 2009)

Francisco López & Lawrence English - "hb" (CD Baskaru, France 2008)
On the same label there is a new, another collaborative work involving Francisco López, here with the no less active Lawrence English. The CD opens with an original López piece, then a rework of that by English, who then gets to do an original and then the remix of López thereof. To start with the latter: the latter half of the López remix is very silent, reminding the listener of López' earlier days. In his own original things are much louder and present and have sounds of the rain forest. Its hard to tell what the difference is between both his original and the English remix - the insect and bird sounds seem to continue, even when English filters out some frequencies and emphasizes some others. Also in the English original pieces insects play a big role. If you would sit back and just listen to the music, I think it would be hard to tell the difference between the various pieces, and you could consider it as one long work, which no doubt was the starting point for the two. Not really a big surprise, this one, but quite good. Vital Weekly (The Netherlands), January 2009

Francisco López & Lawrence English - "hb" (CD Baskaru, France 2008)
Unless you have been living in the wilds of Borneo, or perhaps some far distant planet, most of you will be familiar with both Lawrence English ( solo artist and Room 4o mastermind), and Francisco López. This fascinating pairing unites two distinctly different, although mutually complimentary sonic talents in one recording, each artist having submitted their own field recordings for the other to work upon. Both of the guys here are no strangers to collaboration, both having worked with some of the most prominent names on the experimental/underground circuit for many years now, so it becomes a part of their language to transmit and transform the sonic DNA of another.
The mysteriously titled "HB", is almost wilfully drenched in enigma and abstraction, with no explanation or unifying theme, other than what basically amounts to a file exchange, so the auditor is left immersed in a sea of oblique, leftfield experimentation, distorted field recordings, and blissful shards and fragments that fascinate, and pique the interest and imagination. López, characteristically opens the collection with one of his classic UNTITLED pieces, #175, a 15 minute ultra minimal workout, that barely imposes itself on the ear, a cascade of activity that utilises slithers of micro-fine fabric to draw the listener into his world. English follows up with "Pattern Review by Motion", a piece that blossoms from near silence, that swells in gradients, which then burst open in a froth of static, and amped-up gristle. The piece then fades and dissipates, rising and falling like slow breathing, using the self-similar sounds that López opened with, a continuous, yet highly abstracted theme. English continues the collection with "Wire Fence Upon Opening", again, enveloping us in a veil of opaque, and discrete auditory presences, minimalism taken to the Nth degree. López closes the album with UNTITLED #204, a strange and alluring field recording, that sounds like a walk through a densely wooded area, full of crackles and ambiguous reference points, and then once again alternating this with the ultra-minimal central theme that he opens with. Overall, Baskaru have a masterwork of abstract minimalism on their hands, with two names that will carry this release to an undoubtedly successful conclusion - unique and intensely fascinating, and well worth your hard earned dollars... White_Line reviews, January 2009

Francisco López & Lawrence English - "hb" (CD Baskaru, France 2008)
Francisco López and Lawrence English chose a simple procedure for this magnificent record, sending each other field recordings to manipulate in the studio, creating two additional works from the original material. "Untitled #175" is a classic by the Spanish soundscaper, featuring birds (only rarely accompanied by insects), a constant, muffled mumble-and-growl, wind brushing the microphone and what sounds like a perplexed polar bear in front of something unrecognized. It's masterfully transformed by English into "Pattern Review By Motion", the overall sonority altered by highlighting the environment's uneven breathing and heavy heart - except for a sudden thunderous dynamic shift - instead of focusing exclusively on the "lead chirpers" (they do maintain a central role, though, and English even adds some of his own in the final section). The Australian's "Wire Fence Upon Opening" is a beautiful example of "communicative idiosyncrasy", utilizing the same familiar elements with enhanced sensitivity: here, the distant rumble of the surroundings is absolutely crucial, becoming the link between our own physical reaction and the mental management of utter solitude. These eight extraordinary minutes of unfathomable existential perception are almost doubled (and thoroughly transformed) by López, whose "Untitled #204" concludes the program by confronting us once more with the threatening face of nature: crusty materializations underlined by distant roars, liquid and metal meshing their quintessence in an atmospheric setting that few could ever experience, quietness ultimately re-establishing its influence like slow death. Yet these vibrations are the basis of life. www.paristransatlantic.com (France), February 2009-02-23 www.touchingextremes.com

Francisco López & Lawrence English - "hb" (CD Baskaru, France 2008)
When you think of field recordings and musique concrète, you might not think about pumping your system at full volume and rocking out. But the heavy buzz of insect wings on HB deserves a full-on bass amp — your computer speakers won’t do these pieces justice. The wild shifting within this record is a discursive musical mind-fuck, and timid listeners not used to noise and the harsh nature of electronic music might not appreciate the temerity of Francisco López’s and Lawrence English’s distinct visions. But if you can get down, this is one for the true of heart.

Although it is perhaps a little romantic to think that this album could somehow be perpetrated on the uninitiated — on an unknowing audience ill-prepared for an auditory journey — it makes an apt introduction to artfully manipulated field recordings. Perhaps you might think that phraseology a little taut and overstated for an album that is, at its heart, a mutation of the sounds of nature. But then again, newbie listeners may never have been this close to nature’s potential as a vehicle for experimentation.

Francisco López, born in 1964 Spain, has been plying his trade as an avant-garde musician for almost 30 years now, releasing over 200 works of sound art. He specializes in installations and live performance, preferring darkness and blindfolded audience members to fully capture the intent of his sensory experience. Lawrence English, meanwhile, is an Australia-based musician, but in contrast to López, his background includes much more work as a curator. That is not to slight the abundance of recording and sound installation work that he has created, but rather to highlight his role as an organizer and behind-the-scenes figure.

The experiment here is two-fold: López’s "Untitled #175," an exploration of the sounds at Villablanca in San Ramon, Costa Rica; and English’s "Wire Fence Upon Opening," recorded at Samford Valley near Brisbane. The two then traded the pieces and mutated each other’s work into something new, leaving us with four tracks: López, English mutation, English, López mutation.

Enticing one to listen would involve invoking descriptors such as insectile, squirmy, creepy, churning, gut-wrenching, terrifying, startling, quiet, disturbing, bewildering, challenging, aggravated, lost, futuristic, unstable. To wit, it is an existential sensory tour-de-force. But I find it unnecessary to go into a detailed narrative about all the ins and outs of 50-plus minutes of material that hinges so heavily on experience. TMT is not about music description anyway, and I’m positive anyone who is going to take the time to find and listen to this album will be pleased and surprised by what they discover.

Truth be told, HB has already gone a long way towards reinvigorating my interest in the avant-garde, electronic, and experimental music scenes. López and English do a fantastic job of creating original music with an alien texture, making this more than just a collection of field recordings. The four tracks blend together in a way that belies the intent behind the mutation motif, demonstrating that these are two artists sheared from the same yard of fabric. www.tinymixtapes.com September 2009