1: 07 February 2019
Don’t be fooled. Sound is not a fluid running through your fingers. It’s actually a putty. You can clasp it, press your palms into the cold surface and leave an imprint. You can wrench it in two, delight at how it breaks off, throw it down against a table top so that it flattens and slaps. You can stretch it into spaghetti. Roll it into a tight ball. It’s so easy to forget that sound is a tactile entity: a document of flesh and physical contact (hitting drums, striking strings), but also an object that beckons to be reshaped and re-comprehended. With streaming services, the reflex is to press onward. One track finishes, vanishes, is replaced with another, finishes, vanishes, is replaced. Nascent understandings emerge and then melt away. New Forms is the exact opposite: brightly-coloured bits of sound stuck under your fingernails, toying inexhaustibly with the same piece of audio over and over, crushing it into garish combination with another, coming to know its texture with the same intimacy with which I know the skin on my own hands. It’s about pressing inward, squeezing out the hidden harmonics and rhythms that resides within every passing second of listening, finding the miraculous possibilities that emerge when a fragment from a breakbeat from here is made to duet with a shard of anthemic chorus from there.
Jolts of sensation abound. I’m left giddy from the infinite spiral staircases of piano “Composition No. 1 and 2”, and similarly nauseated from being tossed between the various dance track thumps on “V-A-C Moscow”. Shadows of tuba flicker like ill-wired lighting on “Amina”, giving way to a beat that stumbles on skinny, fawnish legs of lop-cut percussion. Elsewhere, Feshareki strikes upon new textures through the remix equivalent of mere heat and pressure: turntables are slowed with fingers, the chords melting like wax to warm touch, entire orchestras groaning into downward slopes. Other sounds are forced into stubborn repeat, foregrounding the odd rhythms that lie innate within each individual moment, entirely distinct from the rhythm of the track as a whole. Electro-fills bump into slender hi-hats. Some sections of music sound terrifying when recontextualised – I’m thinking of a particular shriek that rips through the centre of “V-A-C Moscow” – while others, like the stammering slides of woodwind and strings on “Composition No. 3”, feel like a smashed accident at first but insist, over and over again, urgent like hands clutching my collar, that there’s something beautiful to be extracted from the mess. This always turns out to be true.
2: 16 February 2019
With time, the loops become mantras. When I first hear one of Feshareki’s samples, it feels as though it’s been mercilessly ripped from its previous context, trombones half-notes and partial melodies dangling out the sides like the wires of a forcefully seized television. It’s an estranged jigsaw piece, unable to convey itself without a reunion with its source. Often I can hear the pop as the sample returns to the start; little plosive complaints of incongruity as a severed ending is mashed into a severed beginning. This, in itself, is beautiful: the brutal estrangement of a congealed cluster of instruments, the seams still bleeding, jerking through rhythms that scramble the intention of the original composer. Yet with each repeat, a different sensation starts to creep into my listening. These clusters of disparate samples start to become objects in themselves, like sentences repeated until they become meaningless, then start to feel profound. The original context is still there – I continue to picture the drum ‘n’ bass jams, orchestra pieces and disco tracks from which these samples originate – yet this awareness is in a push-pull with a new form that ossifies over time, generating a musical language which is just as valid and musically coherent as the compositions from whence the samples came. They no longer feel like orphans – rather, they are revitalised by the epiphany that their endings were always meant to feed back into their beginnings.
3: 07 March 2019
We haven’t yet talked about that panic I feel. Just a jolt, and it’s gone before I even notice it. I remember first falling in love with music in the mid 90s, when I was old enough to know how to play a CD yet too young to know how to take care of them. I’d smudge the underside with greasy fingers. Scratch the surface with uncut nails. I utterly ruined the copy of “Wham Rap!” that belonged to my mum’s boyfriend (he was furious), and my heart sank as I heard the CD player straining to push past a particularly stubborn glitch, reducing the lyrics to phonetic nonsense. Despite over a decade writing about experimental sound, I still feel an instinctive flash of upset when I hear someone sabotaging the organic continuity of music. For example, the moment in “Composition No. 3” when those smooth, woodwind arcs smack straight into a CD-style skip, like someone shooting a bird out of the sky. The drones convulse and pop, bumping into the same error-impasse every time. On one level, it’s agonising to hear. Of course, the orchestra is then swept into a pitch-bend alarm that sheds all recognition of the original piece, and I quickly remember that I’m not a 9-year-old child witnessing the death of a disc. Instead, a new language is being built from these nostalgic trademarks of mishandled media. The lesions of decay – the indents of all those grubby uncut fingernails – are the new dots on the stave.
Perhaps the most dramatic tactic employed by Feshareki is that wormhole glissando: the impression that the original record is being sucked upward or downward, smeared into a scream as it slurps into the space-time cleavage. I imagine cymbals swept into gigantic letter “J”s, voices dragged curvaceously out of mouths. Or perhaps it’s when she feeds the entire track through a delay pedal. The present moment stumbles over the present moment, smacking clumsily into its own beginnings, rhythm quickly reduced to the harsh, erosive roar of time rubbing against itself, instruments collapsed to leave just their sharpest edges. Or perhaps it’s those bleats of distortion, when over-amplification purees a chord into a brash alarm call, when distinct tones are crushed to form a monochromatic scrapyard cuboid. Perhaps it’s the 11-minute mark in “V-A-C Moscow”, when Feshareki employs all three in one go.