1: 03 January 2019
This release is the 11th instalment in a year-long, 12-part series on Copenhagen’s MAGIA label, with various artists all responding to a question posed by Ignacio Córdoba: “what would happen if we destroyed time? How would we exist?”
In the response of Louise Vind Nielsen, it appears that time as a universal human measure has been obliterated. Clocks and watches have been confiscated. A shield conceals the changing colour of the sky. Everyone is forced to become their own clock, teasing out a vague memory of what those mechanical measures used to feel like. On “Quadrophonic Human Tape Metronome At 60bpm”, a pulsing voice falls out of parallel with its own tape echo, sometimes forming one slurred vowel that licks from left to right, occasionally slipping back into alignment by chance, then veering out upon its own path again. At one point I realise that the voices are also gradually rising in pitch, albeit too slowly to immediately perceive. Such is the problem with internal reference points; the piece slips into a feedback loop of marginal error, compounding the inaccuracies of pitch and tempo, rising and quickening, until all resemblance to the initial objective – in this case, a 60bpm pulse – is lost altogether.
On “Synth And Samples Cleaning The Tape”, I hear the same principle transposed upon a futuristic tropical thicket: synthesisers and birdsong trapped in bespoke loops, handclaps and bass drums following their own intuitive timing, each instrument working at its own individual tempo. Sounds circulate without interlocking, repelling eachother as if by magnetic force. It’s the direct inverse of a music founded upon a common understanding of time. Each sound is trapped in its own orbit, aware of the others yet unable to connect, doomed to circle the edges at a distance, like shrapnel floating in absent gravity. There are no lines of causation running between the muffled beat and the spiralling synth arpeggiation. Just a cluster of events strewn across the crackle of worn tape.
Upon the destruction of time, isolation comes to claim me. When I listen to the voices on the first track scattered out of temporal unison, it reminds me of the anxiety that can sometimes arise in public spaces. This feeling often feels rooted in misalignment, as if everyone else adheres to a common notion of time, language and implicit social etiquette, and I’ve been banished to my own little island of miscomprehension and counting in my head. Perhaps this image is fed by Vind Nielsen’s decision to sing in curt exhalations (“ha, ha, ha…”), through which this misaligned version of time is reflected in respiratory asymmetry – those panicked outward breaths, pressing hard against the smooth streams of inhalation, scattered across the stereo frame like various roof leaks plopping into various buckets.
Yet beyond this second-by-second unravelling of time, there is the grander unspooling of history fed by the medium of the cassette. Each take of Vind Nielsen’s voice is a separate strand of present tense, twisted together into the illusion of shared time. The notions of “then” and “now” collapse into eachother. The scrambling of chronology is even more potent on the second piece, which starts with a sudden extract of pop music – presumably the former contents of the cassette – before cutting straight into the one-take composition for synth and samples (the sampler, in itself, being a means of twisting the past into the present). History isn’t simply overlain but scrubbed out entirely, with this object of posterity rewritten with a documented improvisation. And of course, we can talk about the paradox of improvisation being captured and immortalised, and the dialogue with present tense being dragged continually away from its moment of optimal pertinence. I keep thinking about the fact that Vind Nielsen calls this process “cleaning the tape”: the object scrubbed free of all connection to the past, drinking in the electronic squirms and throbs that denote the new present which, in themselves, slip into the rear view after the moment of capture. Apparently, the record will be made available on cassette at some point in the future. Read into that what you will.
“Ha” is an odd choice of sound to denote the passing of each second. With “tick”, we have a hard consonant to define the moment of a second passing. Where does this demarcation reside within “ha”? It’s a smear of sound; always transient, thickening from the vapour of “h” to the rich note of “a”, before receding back into the transparency of breath again. I suppose it’s a very human way of hedging its assertions, spreading the coverage of its approximate timekeeping and keeping the calculation vague.