V/A :: TriMIX (Innova, CD/DVD)

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(02.11.07) First of all, go to tjnorris.net. TJ Norris (as is his artistic concept) is dripping with the trappings of post-modern art. Oh fuck it. I refuse to use these terms anymore. But I will say this: how can a denial of structure end up being so recognizable, so awash in familiar norms of the genre, and therefore so structured, so rigid? Does this contradiction just further the irony? If so, then I guess the joke’s on me. Cats are chasing dogs! Arg!! Har har. Nah, these are my people. Therefore, I’m just expressing my own self-loathing. Thank goodness there exist artistic/philosophical movements founded on the idea that there is no Art (with a capital A), that art can come from anywhere, and that truth is in a constant state of flux.

So, at last, I have stumbled onto the mysterious “Noise” sub-genre of Experimental music. I describe “Noise Music” as unpredicted beauty. Wikipedia says about Noise Music: “”Noise” music is regarded by some as a contradiction in terms, because “noise” is generally defined as unwanted and undesigned or unintentional sound and music as the opposite.” Wikipedia says about Noise: “In signal processing or computing it can be considered data without meaning; that is, data that is not being used to transmit a signal, but is simply produced as an unwanted by-product of other activities.” Ha! I love it! Imagine finding beauty in THAT! Take track three [“Le gocce dell’uomo del campo” by Gal (after Illusion of Safety)] for instance –so audaciously weird with its crazy pops and chirps and electro-sighs made dramatic by uncomfortably long pauses between! Now this is minimalist noise.

A DIGRESSION: Good art (I’m not being subjective here) –whether you are a slave to structure or not, a modernist, post-modernist, or otherwise –“good” “art” is not spawned merely from being contrary and doing something intentionally different from what that asshole over there is doing. Finding/making Good art is like going on a treasure hunt for the human spirit. After all, rotting industrial wastelands, cracked and rusted iron objects, the pounding of posts, the grinding of gears, the buzz and crackle of electricity finding its way from one place to another through wire portals –all this was/is created by humans. And humans are beautiful. Humans are us. Where did we go? Oh! There you are in that concrete! I see your face in that cloud of exhaust! I sense your love in that entangled steel! Humans cannot help but make beauty. The little love-machine inside us all channels its message of humanity through any surface, within any medium, regardless of purpose or intention. It can’t help but do so. On triMIX, some of these artists found it. And Norris found them. Judging by his portfolio (click here to view), he has a knack for finding beauty in unexpected places. This he does with the triMIX compilation.

Track 6 [“Gal-fel (Informed)” by Xela (after Rapoon)] is one of the more structurally traditional songs. Beautiful guitar repetitive melodies and arpeggios bud, bloom, build on top of one another. Really nice. Very soothing. But then with track 7 [“Asmusmenge 1” by Freiband (after Asmus Tiechens)], the album magnificently deteriorates into a rumbling collection of garbled, rumbly bass static. But gently. And then this further deteriorates (and, again, not in the usual, pejorative sense of the word) into a long and piercing beeeeeeeeep. But the segues between guitar, then static, then beep are smooth and necessary to the expression –which ends up being very real, emotive, powerful. It’s somehow more satisfying when you can experience beauty where you wouldn’t expect it to be. It’s reassuring. And the magic of unpredictability and indeterminacy is all the rage in physics (first quantum physics, then string theory [I hella watch Nova, dude!]) and in the philosophy of literature (post-structuralism, post-modernism). The expectation is denied: western music theory, traditional time signatures, punctuation and grammar –all explained to us in a new, more modern way by realizing and envisioning their contrasting counterparts. We perceive an incongruity, or a gap, between our expectation of reality, and what actually happens. Track 8 [“Continuum (remix)” by Nobukazu Takemura (after Scanner)] rumbles along. It’s neat and entertaining; interesting and communicative. Which, frankly, is something of a surprise, because –as with a lot of this minimalist music –you’d expect it to be boring. But it’s not.

I refer to this collection as an album, because it’s not just a collection of songs. In this case, the art is very much in the compiling. TJ Norris has made an album significantly greater than simply the sum of its songs. The various composers created some beautiful sounds, and then Norris used them to create a more beautiful collage.

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As an added bonus, triMIX includes a DVD with four music videos to illuminate more power and meaning in the songs. Apparently, the first three videos are the source music of the corresponding remixes on the audio CD. “Continuum” (video: Ryan Jeffery, audio: Scanner) features ice breaking. When examined up close, these commonplace, seemingly-subtle images unfold into vast complexity. Have you ever looked really closely at sheets of ice on a lake or a road as they melt and break? There’s a lot going on there! So many angles, bubbles, bursts, spikes reflective and transparent, colorless but for the odd rainbow –like the glass in a window to infinity. Appreciation of simple commonplace happenings is an important tenet of minimalism. Because minimalism isn’t simply simplicity or lack of content; its quiet, meditative acknowledgement and appreciation of processes and feelings that we might have forgotten about in the heat and the din and the excitement, entertainment, advertisement, mass media, et al of modern life.

These videos utilize blury, kaliedoscoping weirdness; flashing, disjointed grids and patterns. The fourth video does not appear on the audio CD but is arguably the most powerful production on the DVD. “Symbiont” [video: Miles Chalcraft, audio: Matthew Adkins (selected through the Sonic Circuits Festival)] is a montage of spectacular city madness. An industrial steel-scape morphs into people on streets while subways and cars rumble in sublime, sympathetic service to the hardcore/IDM/but still noisy music. And now I’m looking at a video game with a distopian theme. The people of the city are killing each other! Here statues in parks and squares celebrate war, soldiers, angels with swords. Now I feel like maybe all that war and killing throughout history wasn’t such a good idea. Because people are actually really, really beautiful and no one should be shot, made to bleed undignified and naked and suffering and left to die on the dirty street. That’s really fucking horrifying. This video agrees. And I agree with this video.

Along the same minimalist lines–but done with singers and orchestral instruments in a dramatically echoey church somewhere in Dracula’s Europe –I also recommend Arvo Part’s Miserere (it changed my life).

triMIX is out now on Innova. Buy it here.

  • Innova
  • TJ Norris
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