Album Review

Duncan, John – “First Recordings 1978-1985 ” – [Vinyl on Demand]

Max Level   1/29/2007   12-inch, A Library

Noise / performance artist Duncan re-issues some of his early cassette material, much of it originating on live radio broadcasts. It’s all quite intriguing to me now, as I was unaware of Duncan back in those days. I can see how much influence his work has had on many contemporary “noisicians”.
LP1: “Dark Market Broadcast” – Tokyo radio 1985. Two sizable masses of ugly corrosive noise, with vocal elements in a couple of places. Not total killer noise like MSBR or Masonna, but slow and excruciating. Side A is listed as seven pieces, and Side B as two pieces, but it all runs together, and who knows what’s where?
LP2: “Station Event” – Los Angeles radio 1978. The mix includes a couple of improvising musicians, neither listening to the other, and Duncan’s random phone interaction with listeners. Two side-long tracks; meandering in a low-energy way.
LP3: “No/Probe/Gain” – Side A is two pieces: “No” (Los Angeles radio 1978), at 21 minutes, it consists almost exclusively of Duncan breathing hard, moaning, and hyperventilating. Some talking toward the end. Might be interesting to try a music bed under it (?). “Probe” is a pulsing, electronic piece, about 3 minutes long, composed for a 1985 cassette compilation. Side B “Gain” is a side-long piece, similar to the material on LP1, i.e., an irritating noisescape with a few vocal interjections. Also from a 1985 cassette compilation.
Duncan’s work here isn’t exactly nightmarish, it’s more like having dreams that start to go very wrong.
Includes a DVD with 2 videos: a quietly tense 20-minute sound piece accompanies visually-obscured footage of a bondage-sex session, and a noisier 5-minute piece with visuals of clouds, sky, space, and, well, more sex. You can, of course, play the audio portions of these on the air if you’re so inclined.

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