Substation


Substation Robin Fox and Clayton Thomas

Room40

Australian duo Robin Fox and Clayton Thomas have created something of an oddity with their debut collaborative release ‘Substation’. Fox is an expert in Max/MSP programming (it’s a piece of music software for those of you living in the real world) wheras Thomas is an expert on the double bass and a luminary of the Aussie improv scene. An interesting pairing then and one which lives up to expectations; the first piece ‘Direct Couriers’ lulls you into a false sense of security with haunting chimes and double bass tones, but as the second track ‘Shuffle’ awakens you quickly realise that ‘Substation’ is not going to be an easy piece of listening. Harsh processed squeaks and squeals burst from Thomas’s double bass and Fox’s laptop to create an all-encompassing headphone listening onslaught. By the time it finishes, you’ll feel quite exhausted, luckily the album’s centrepiece – the almost 30 minute ‘Dust on the Diodes’ is a more slow burning work, gradually building deep drones and clanking sounds into a sea of processed plucks. ‘Substation’ is by no means an album for a quiet night in – it’s an experience, something which requires all your senses to be fully honed to allow yourself room to experience the music. One of Room40’s most peculiar releases, but also one of it’s most rewarding – recommended.

Source: Boomkat

Backscatter DVD

Synaesthesia

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Digital culture is obsessed with synaesthesia, especially sound/image convergence. From club ‘visuals’ to automatic ‘visualiser’ plugins for mp3 applications, there’s an ideal of sensory fusion at work which draws on cyber/psychedelic rave culture, and utopian new media discourse.

Ideals aside, digital media forms do create new potential for varieties of ‘machine’ synaesthesia–automatic mappings between sound and image. Visualiser plugins offer specific and more-or-less arbitrary mappings of image to sound. While they can’t (promise to) induce a synaesthetic experience, they do offer a machine synaesthesia that might challenge, reorder, or at least reflect on, our own audiovisual perception. Yet most synaesthesia machines are little more than bolted-on nozzles that turn all your favourite tunes into generic visual sludge.

By contrast Robin Fox’s Backscatter disc presents a highly specific and refined synaesthesia machine. He has assembled a simple audiovisual synthesizer using simple digitally synthesised audio and an old analog oscilloscope. The oscilloscope is in ‘polar’ mode, so instead of scanning left to right, displaying the conventional ‘trace’ of the waveform, the trace orbits the screen. Waveforms create woven circles, loops, twisting spirals, filigreed knots.

Response is instantaneous, so the screen jumps and twitches in sync with Fox’s audio signature skitters and blips. The sound-vision mapping is supple, the images beautiful and sometimes surprising. The pieces feel quite controlled, even composed, the way they seem to literally reveal new twists and tricks. Overall, the results are staggering.

Mitchell Whitelaw
Earbash

Coagulate

CoagulateRobin Fox & Anthony Pateras

Synaesthesia

Exquisitely packaged (the cover work by Sarah Pirrie is outstanding), intriguingly diverse, this succeeds as a series of excursions into a strange, painful territory we can touch with our fingers but can’t see with our eyes. This is nowhere more true than the closing track ‘Recombinant’, which spins a web of whining feedback around gentle chimes, creating a mournful, faintly sinister atmosphere which reverberates between the listener’s ears. Similarly ‘Cranking The Dwarf’, one of the noisier track on the album, merrily twangs on your nerve endings, with its chatter and gibber enveloped by blisters of grating distortion. ‘Circuits & Glass’ is another standout, with bursts of full-on electronic noise punctuated by speaker feedback and abrasive clatters and tinkles. There’s a lot of this sort of stuff about, and in the main it sounds like a couple of blokes playing about with their kit, making it up as they go along. That may be the case with Pateras and Fox, neither of whom I have previously heard of, but if they can produce a record of this quality by so doing then good luck to them. ‘Circuits & Glass’ could be Merzbow at his best, and I can think of no higher compliment than that.

Stewart Gott
Fluxeuropa – 3 June 2003

Flux Compendium

Flux Compendium Robin Fox & Anthony Pateras

eMEGO

First and maybe obvious point. This magnificent disc has to be listened to at full volume on a proper hi-fi, not headphones or incar stereo. That way the sonic terrorism of the opening track comes at you full force, and the subtler effects of subsequent tracks aren’t lost in environmental sound. Pateras and Fox are a terrifying soundart double-act from Melbourne’s outer suburbs – Pateras produces the material ..boards or as here exclusively, vocalising, and Fox processes the result in real-time on laptop. I was misled to some extent by the CD blurb: “Equal parts postwar beard and modern patchnocrat…two of Melbourne’s hairiest sons nosedive and writhe in their unique take of sonic totalism, rising out of the muck with their kaleidoscopic best.” You might be too if you don’t dig beneath the zany humour that’s such an attractive part of their act. Don’t take it without argument that sounds of slurping reflect the pair’s eating habits, or that the oral noises should have invoked a Parental Advisory sticker.

Tracks are quite short, each with a distinct character, multi-dynamic and in constant flux. The comparatively brief opening barrage of “Apocalypse Now And Then” is a wacky, scratch ‘n’ sniff manipulation of electroacoustic clichés and sci-fi effects, bizarrely juxtaposed with a compendium of bodily functions – “punk concrète” as its authors call it. The way Pateras licks around the mic on “Aphasia” and “Olfactophobia” is quietly disgusting, while “$2.50” is a relief from orality in its focus on bell and coin sounds. The compressed and fractured argument of “Threat In Three Parts” leaves this listener in stitches, while “Perilymph” is untypical in its 13-minute length, and haunting, glitch-inflected evocation of the sine-wave/sci-fi school of electroacoustic composition. To process Pateras’s signal, Fox employs a variety of techniques, mostly involving live sampling and manipulation of those samples, he explains – moving between real-time musique concrète and a kind of granular synthesis which inserts pre-designed ideas or licks built up from grains of sound. Make no mistake, Pateras and Fox are serious and major artists who happen, on occasion, to be very funny. Flux Compendium is a scream and also very beautiful, the finest showcase to date of their compositional flair and wit.

Andy Hamilton
Wire Magazine