Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Carlos Giffoni

Noise-as-a-style poses interesting questions more consistently than it does provide viable results for this listener. It leads one to get all John Cage about things, hand on hip pouting "Well, what is music then?" And I am with them, except that while I still like reading John Cage as much as I did back in my heady days of zeal and discovery, I don't really like to listen to it all that much. But I'm still always listening for it.

Carlos Giffoni has popped up on my radar from two different places: the inclusion of his Adult Life on The Wire's list of things so difficult a staffer was forced to remove it from the office CD player, and this nugget in the Village Voice mentioning his No Fun Fest in New York.

His records do noise right. Arrogance is all grinding fuzz, static made from static pushed through innumerable filters and repeaters, ebbing and flowing with the tide. It is the thing one does if one has a lot of effects pedals and the house alone to oneself, except Giffoni does it with finesse. The growls of technology sound like they are moving impossibly slow through the wires and at teh same time, impossibly fast. We, the listener are out of sync with the continuum/pulse of electricity, so Giffoni shapes it, herds it along like a trusty dog until it gets in the corral.

Adult Life is deceptively cleaner in tenor, building tracks out of precise minute repetitions, so flawless you would think they were melodies extracted from quartz rather than people. When events do arise among the current, you are not quite sure if they are the subject of the composition, acoustic counter-phenomena, or perhaps the will superimposing those sounds onto the grid, if only to blanket the maddening spiky terrain with snow just to keep you from going mad.

In both, you can hear at times, deep in the mix, unmistakable traces of human chanting, like lost transmissions of field recordings bouncing off a quasar to be picked up by nothing. I get the feeling of that old Williams Burroughs routine, that voices never leave a room, that they just bounce around in there forever and that if you had recording equipment sensitive enough, you could recreate everything that happened in that room from the data. But again, there may be no actual humanity in these pieces, and that I am trying to find them in there, seeing faces in the cliffside. The seed to this seeking is undeniably in the pieces, though, and that separates Giffoni from the pack of low-science scientists in noise who set up the Bunsen burners just top see what boils. This music groans and shouts and breathes as much as any other. Whether you can sit in the room while it does it is a matter of your own threshold for experiencing those functions in others.

Giffoni's website

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