Review: Gustavo Torres + J.-P. Caron – ~Ø

Gustavo Torres & J.-P. Caron - ~Ø (não-vazio) m.p.s.s.t.n.g.g.c.o.p.p.g. - coverThe needle and the tape. The crackle and the hiss. My ears are trained to perceive these sounds as a prelude: the fleeting bursts of noise that herald the arrival of signal and meaning. In an ideal world, they wouldn’t exist. The music would bloom immaculately from silence, devoid of clear origin, abstracted from the dull labour of pressing plants and printers, cut away from the notion of mechanically conceived object. Through the digital format, this ideal has been able to manifest. While some have developed a renewed adoration for the noise of analogue process as a result, others now feel a stronger displeasure towards those crackles and pops and hisses that no longer need to exist. With this in mind, I perceive as a love story set at the ominous, encircling denouement of the digital apocalypse: the needle and the tape clinging to eachother, projecting their swan song at the highest volume possible, compounding their hisses and pops in a celebration of imperfection and process, waiting to perish at the hands of material friction and analogue decay, imminently consumed by the spotless, immortal digital silence.

This 30-minute piece combines three separate compositions for “non-recorded” media (for reasons obvious, I’m reluctant to use the terms “blank” and “empty”). The vinyl is panned left. The tape is panned right. Gradually, the sounds of interference start to thicken, speckling silence like intermittent snow upon a clear window, consuming all empty space until the entire field of playback is blotted out by the medium. On the left, a loop starts to solidify as the needle burrows into the grooves, producing sudden blusters of noise and little gasps of feedback that recur, ever louder, each time the path is retraced. On the right, a mysterious low hum starts to seep into the hiss as interference is played back into itself (both by recording the contents of the blank cassette over and over again, and by layering the noise using a loop pedal), expanding from a barely-perceivable whirr into a rich, somewhat musical hum.

The most wonderful moments on occur in the ballet of side-switching, as one of the media reaches a durational limit and has to be manually flipped. Of course, this is the other “superfluous” aspect of analogue playback: the manual maintenance of the experience, whereby the escapism of listening must be clumsily disrupted by the lifting and repositioning of the vinyl or tape. During these instances, I hear those clatters of physical handling that lurk in the limbo between sides A and B, along with the nasal breaths of Caron and Torres as they engage in these rituals with studious, somewhat reverent concentration. I come away from this collaboration with a richer love for the physical mechanics that imprint themselves onto obsolete forms of audio playback. But of course, the great irony of is that the this ode is entirely dependent on its digital presentation, providing me with a crisp, unblemished window through which to appreciate the nuances of imperfect, ever-withering fidelity.