Review: Ben Vida – Damaged Particulates

SP075-frontcoverI’ve never seen rain like this. Liquid gold dripping down the rim of the sky, blood-thick and shimmering. I’ve never heard chimes like this either: hexagonal prisms producing harmonics that run in slants, before arcing downwards and upwards simultaneously. Damaged Particulates is a collage of semi-physical, semi-tangible phenomena. These noises are rich are jagged enough to touch, yet their movement defies the command of the corporeal world; objects I recognise behaving in ways my mind, in all its logical inadequacy, can’t imagine. Rarely do I think about these sounds originating from a synthesiser. On headphones, my skull becomes a basin against which the sounds press and ricochet. My brain dissolves into a million marbles sloshing and clacking around my head. On speakers – to which the record is probably better suited, given that the first piece originates from a live installation – the experiments take place in my gut instead, as syrup glissandos and digital bubbles clasp and twist my insides. I’m digestively rewired. Zips are stitched into my intestines and dragged back and forth. For better or worse.

The second half of this record is actually a 20-minute snippet of a new long-form composition titled “Reducing The Tempo To Zero”, which is almost five hours long at its full running time. Like his 2013 release Slipping Control, this piece is one possible iteration of a work that can be channelled and translated through many different artistic mediums, taking it far away from its origin as a text score. The version here is like a collection of bells made from sonorous felt. The harmonies blur into all sorts of clashes and agitations, floating into audibility like ghosts, bending in pitch as though pressed out of shape. In the latter half, the resonances are smeared into low drones that quiver through microtonal change. There is an eerie, transient anonymity to the piece. I’m never certain that I’m holding the sounds the right way up. In fact, given that these sonic forms are actually just signals for the shapes of another medium – phonetics rendered in an alternate tongue – I’m perhaps wrong to consider that there’s a correct way to orientate or understand this music. The composition is a consequence, and as such, isn’t beholden to the meaning within the action that triggered it.