Review: ada – Extended Transmissions

In a manner rather appropriate for a release affiliated with the UK’s first (and only) sound art gallery, Extended Transmissions is as much to do with the observation of sound as it is to do with the utilisation of it. Various different tones are combined – some identifiable (feedback, field recording of crashing waves, white noise), some not – and the most alluring aspect of the record is the way in which ada guides them all into being, at mercy to the limitless parameters that contort their timbre and behaviour.

The opening few minutes of “Transmission One Part 1” act as an apt introduction to this process. Low hums of interference quiver and overlap, coaxed carefully into louder volumes and agitations of distortion before being promptly stifled into quiet; their harmonic meeting point is appropriately dissonant, like two lines agonisingly offset from parallel, or a shape suspended awkwardly mere millimetres off the ground. Other sounds are applied in intricate layers – flickering static, the beep of active machinery – evoking an overall instability that feels electric and almost tangible.

It’s a tension that never really alleviates (save for the brisk interlude of silence following the conclusion of the second piece). The latter part of “Transmission One” toys with microphone feedback in a similar manner to the treatment of the interference in the first part, goading it into sudden escapes of noise and promptly choking it again, as if clumsily trying to identify the exact point of proximity at which feedback commences to exist. Meanwhile, “Transmission Two” places more streams of feedback in a clicking, juddering capsule of rhythm, which rotates as certain frequencies and sounds are emphasised and dropped. Once again, one gets the sense that ada can only influence the changes in sound rather than actively dictate them, but by no means should that strip the composer of all credit; while the tones themselves are largely in freeform, the manner of their utilisation and placement is impeccable throughout.