Review: Alan Courtis – Crystal Faisa

CoverTwo sides, two acoustic scenarios, two onslaughts of sound.

Each of these seven-minute pieces is a meditation on a separate circumstance. Side one is a piano recorded in a Japanese train station. Side two is a recording of several electric guitars in an Argentinian studio. In each instance, Courtis seems to connect to the very essence of his situation. He identifies the sonic details that protrude out of his acoustic framing. The washy sibilance of the train station. The rumble of the piano strings as keys are pounded with visceral attack. The shrill, serrated surface of the amplifier distortion, which sits atop the circulating feedback like bright-white oceanic foam.

These elements are then transformed and amplified into dramatic events. The train station ambience becomes a swarm of hiss, rushing beneath the high ceiling and rebounding off the platform floors; a wordless incantation of transient masses, reduced to vibrations that drift briskly across the station hall, impatiently awaiting their onward departure. The piano sloshes from left to right and back again, sent into sway by the currents of human traffic, dragging Courtis’ hands up and down the keyboard and generating a dizzy melody in the process. It’s a compelling piece of music but a strangely agitated one, harnessing the restlessness of the train station into a piece that knows nothing but movement.

On side two, Courtis drowns the guitar in amplified product. The room is awash with fizz and the hum of feedback – tones snake outward to greet eachother in dissonance embrace, while distortions fuse to former even bigger, nastier masses of overdrive. I’m at the train station once again, severed from the source signal and lost in a sea of transit, left to swim through waves of sound in collision. In both of these pieces, Courtis turns fixed scenarios of instrument/place into swirls of infinite opportunity, using sound to unlock the chaos and flux within static rooms and objects.