Yann Novak :: Presence (Hibernate)

Presence operates in the inbetween between unresolved and resolution, flirting with the chill charms of the unpitched then back, finding refuge in more comfily pitched material. Low-end looms cede to sudden subsides, then other kinds of radiation, drawing back from the edge of abrasion, softening in focus to warm fuzzy then ceding again to cold prickly revisits.

Yann Novak 'Presence'

Presence - Yann Novak Yann Novak has always struck as not so much a musician or producer as a kind of digital art-documentarist who happens to deal in audio as well as visual forms, the conceptual art peg on which he invariably hangs his hat conspicuous as signifier—ghost in the machine of what is simply computer-mediated audio data manipulated to effect a response in the listener (now that’s what I call ‘music’!). Presence, the CD, is a version of a larger Presence, a performance piece including video and participatory elements: mobile phone tones, digitally-enhanced, are induced to “travel smoothly through a number of emotional and physical states.” Phony or fascinating—your mileage may vary according to your taste for the ambitions (vs. pretentions) of art experiment; e.g. if the centrality of the role of multiple chance interactions with the performance space in the piece’s development sets your pulses racing, you get cerebral value added. The lineage here is one of long-form acoustico-spatial research, and the aleatory trajectory created by indeterminate elements, most celebrated exhibit being LaMonte Young’s Dream House. Novak mines this vein in a style familiar from previous work on his Dragon’s Eye label (see igloo 3View), roughly between the low-end drone strategies of Thomas Köner and the high-end microsonics of Richard Chartier.

The captured phone tones, their over- and under- teased out by tweakery, are slowly shifted through various nuanced passages into a 48-minute tract, Presence first manifesting in its binary opposite—absence, evacuated space across which a few stray vapours float unmoored from recognizable pitch. These dry wisps condense into thicker moister draughts, wafting through the liminal into a long smudge of tone colour. A univocal drone develops amid which different accents and inflections emerge—crepitant, sibilant, fibrillating, tintinnabulating. A nocturnal hum takes you down—eddies of shimmer, soft rumble, and organ-like undercurrents in the toneflow. Presence operates in the inbetween between unresolved and resolution, flirting with the chill charms of the unpitched then back, finding refuge in more comfily pitched material. Low-end looms cede to sudden subsides, then other kinds of radiation, drawing back from the edge of abrasion, softening in focus to warm fuzzy then ceding again to cold prickly revisits. Forever midway through a state of change, one might say that no tone is left unturned as Novak documents the sound of elemental changes—from air to water, fire to earth.

So, ending somewhere between the Scylla and Charybdis of reductionism and transcendence, we might observe the challenge here is not so much posed by experimental obscurantism, but by deep listening—to tune in to a teeming microcosmos (1996) and discern deeper sound distinctions within. One can feel secure, though, with Yann Novak—that the austerities of process are felicitously balanced by the pleasures of listening product, however hard won. Something of a departure from Hibernate’s usual organic ambient-drone fare, Presence proves to be a satisfying realization of transformative processing, of mute hummings afforded articulate speech, as illustrated in the excerpt below from a recent free Hibernate sampler.

Presence is available now on Hibernate. Buy at Hibernate, iTunes or Amazon.

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