Review: Yenting Hsu – Flash 須臾

ASH INTERNATIONAL.

“Some scientists believe that we have memories from the past and the future both. Past memories and future memories come together as a circle,” states Yenting Hsu in the liner notes for the fourth track on Flash 須臾. Even without reading any context, this record is audibly fixated on nonlinear time. Loops, erratic repetitions and cut-ups govern the energy of these pieces, thrashing against the metronomic progression of the playback system duration counter. There are physical revolutionary systems at work here too, such as the no-input mixer on “False or True 虛實”, or the crackling turntable that commences the entire record. Endings bleed into beginnings; sounds press deeper into the listener’s head as each repeat reaffirms them. So while each of these six tracks pulls in a completely different direction, from the restless drones of the opening track to the hissing machinery recordings on “Coordinates 座標”, they all share a common dialect in how they enact time. Low frequencies are also a thematic constant, dragging at the base of each composition, like the humming cable connecting these tracks to a solitary kinetic hub.

Yenting Hsu makes another interesting remark in the notes, stemming from how this record furthers her work on the Relight+MUSIC project alongside the zhēnzhēn Stained Glass lab: “Sound, music and glass exist as art forms of time”. While it’s easy for a music writer to comprehend this statement in relation to the first two, the presence of glass in this list seems like an intentional complication. Whereas sound travels in parallel to passing time, moulded glass exists as a (brittle) memory of its creation, resisting change and clinging to its arrangement at a specific moment. With this in mind, tracks like “Circle 迴圈”, with field recordings of train travel, laughter, cicadas at night, processed voice all snipped and muddled, embody both of these modes of time: the bustle of sound recalibrating to the ever-renewing present, and recordings as static artefacts that refuse the onward flow. The closing track “Starry 星塵” is the perfect encapsulator, with recordings of patterned glass on a turntable resembling disturbances from deep inside a gigantic cave. Yenting Hsu mentions that this harks back to her memories of first hearing this sound. The sound of glass becomes a portal to a personal past, the audible announcements of an object’s own memory, a recording to be recast into new future meanings, and so much more.

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