Yann Novak & Pinkcourtesyphone :: Double review (Dragon’s Eye)

Not long back we trailed the return, after a self-imposed hiatus, of Dragon’s Eye, an imprint very much in the catchment area of this organ’s more esoteric wing (see here and here). Curator Yann Novak has taken stock, and, newly kickstarted, relaunched with two new works—his own and Pinkcourtesyphone‘s—renewing the label’s line in accessible experimentalism.

After last year’s Foley Folly Folio and Elegant and Detached, audiovisual conceptualist Richard Chartier further pursues his Pinkcourtesyphone conceit with A Ravishment of Mirror, seemingly a hyper-timbral satire on/elegy to his LA homeland–city of light and noir. The object of its sonic semiosis is a mythic early Hollywood and the fixation with dreams and surface, delusion and deception. ‘A plastic organic unity ready to enfold and repackage you,’ in Chartier’s words, for which he concocts a queerly compelling microsound-lounge ambient-drone hybrid to mirror a woozy waking life in spectral settings. Less static soundscape than protean collage, “Why Pretend / The Desire of Absence / Faulty Connections,” goes from narcotic drift through micro-orchestral tone poem in a choreography of swells and billows, wheezes and whirrs, discreet plosives and inchoate melodies. The suggestive psychoactive apertures of “Pixels… Sometimes… Broke Your Heart (for A.)” fuse oneiric glassine drift and queasy listening redolent of SAW II and haunted ballroom. ‘I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain.’—read the suicide note of actress Peg Entwistle, found dead under the Hollywood sign, to whom is dedicated “Falling Star”—a vignette of smudged echo and smears of twilight tone, cicada chirp, cocktail tinkle, and a lone breeze-borne voice. “62,000 Valentines,” hommage to actor Tab Hunter, hosts a cavernous swathe of romanticist remotion. The Mulholland Drive of Lynch/Badalamenti comes to mind, as, between the nothingness and eternity of elegiac beauty and toxic abyss, Chartier finds an elegant balance of surface blithe spirit and self-conscious noir-ish undertow for one of his least oblique strategies and most expressive works.

Yann Novak’s own Snowfall is a 1-hr distillation of a 6-hr photo-and-field recording performance at Human Resources LA, designed to recreate and explore the sense of hush and isolation of a snowstorm. For the uninitiated, Novak’s materials are sound, light and space which are explored for their potential as catalysts to focus awareness of presence (cfPresence), in both senses, altering perceptions of time and spatiality. The eponymous theme is rendered from a liminal murmur in slow variations redolent of his Blue Hour, starting with sleet sounding on solid surfaces, accruing intensity via field captures, white noise and extraneous frequencies. While sonorities stay low in the rumble zone, they’re in perpetual motion. Near mid-way drones fold in, lighter and darker, focus shifts between muted wind-howl and soft thrummings, small sounds suggestive of freezing, crackling, temperature and wind bringing different dimensioned snowflakes to strike hard surfaces. Ending organ tones flood the soundfield, cementing a sense of peace and stability, though snow crackle is uneffaced. A well modulated intensification, then decompression occurs over its final section creating a haven of repose, the path to which was doubtless vividly signalled by the original’s photo and field source setting. Overall, in an impressive sleight of hand of granular microsound design, Novak’s particulate manipulation transports the listener from perception of atmospheric conditions to awareness of isolation, to pure auscultation.

Snowfall and A Ravishment of Mirror are available on Dragon’s Eye. [S | ARoM]

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