Matt Schulz, The Squid’s Ear

Matt Schulz, The Squid’s Ear, 14-05-2012
The progenitors of forward thinking sound have always looked to their surroundings, natural or man-made, for inspiration and new ways to express themselves. Bird song inspired the likes of Messiaen and Dolphy, the industrial revolution informed the compositions of Varese and the riotous clang of Neubauten, and still a further example can be heard in the electromagnetic data recorded by NASA space probes, ultimately comprising the “Music of the Spheres” anthology. In short-simply paying attention to your aural surroundings can reveal avant garde music of the highest order. The daily collision of sound objects, voices, and nature itself easily resembles a sort of musique concrete if your ears are tuned to it.

So what happens when master percussionist Luis Tabuenca and co-conspirator Wade Matthews adorn similarly found sounds, collected in the Aragon region of Southern Spain, with an arsenal of percussion and sound processing? The results are a marvelous re-appropriating of disembodied noise environments every bit as varied as Aragon itself — an area that claims arid river basins and permafrost alike as its terrestrial makeup. Deep bass drones, clattering sounds, speech, sprinkler systems (?) and more take on new sonic meanings, giving birth to music that recalls everything from La Monte Young to Black Dice. The duo have created a lovingly artful snapshot of this region of Tabuenca’s youth by re-arranging the aural landscape into new sonic terrains that buzz, howl, and chatter, in hopes of preserving memories of a less polluted past.
Field recordings often reveal their true depth in the present listening environment — your car, the train, your living room, or another locale. We don’t always realize the role context plays in hearing music. Remove the original spacial context from the sound source and suddenly it becomes something wholly other. After all, what is music anyway? A series of harmonies, melodic movement, lyrics? Or is it something more intangible and abstract? The resulting conjured emotions are the real gauge of quality.Aragon Punto Cero, perhaps more so than other proper “music”, tells many stories, and sounds thrillingly imaginative. Highly recommended.