Album Review

Jos Steen – “Electricity!!! Music For Tape and Turntable” – [Ultra Eczema]

Grizzly Adam   5/20/2015   12-inch, A Library

Belgium’s Jos Steen, known for his home recordings, thirty plus self releases, and for an approach to art and music informed by Don Van Vliet, here almost entirely avoids voice and acoustic guitar, a guitar that punctures like a piano, both full of meaningful willful association. Immediate precedents for this work might be Kurt Schwitters and Harry Partch. Dadaist collage, post-performance, anti-linear, an art of contraction, concision, and modified forms. Old timey, loosey goosey not following prescribed guidelines or general societal expectations. Comparable to computer software performances with acoustic sampling and live processing. Track A4 inspires a reflection) Is it beeping because it’s ready? Is it day because I hear the birds? Is it passing because I hear it skipping by? Couldn’t it be returning to an originary state, of night, of stasis, of beginnings, one sans change? To before the note was struck? Music as the way or path back to the start from the end (as beginning.) The music is the reverse of the perceived.

A1) Clicking, setting down on wood, and zombie groans. Start and stopping signals, pitch and speed shifts. Bird chirps. Some of the snippets are covered over and/or quiet. Occasional loud sounds stand out and might sonically wobble or vibrate. 2) Recitation of “got my violin ain’t got no…”, and remnants of glimpses of violin, early soundtrack orchestra, drunk speech or poetry in tongues, frenzied drawing, and deformations to everything pitched all to hell. 3) Some strings on a board, and hella loose, elastic rubber bands, and jaw harp, and some slapping or whacking on the board with counter vibrations on the strings, action reaction. 4) A slower tempo, and a clearer palette, and note the out of tune guitar note. B1) De-stringed proto-stringed guitar and CD player instrumentation mostly with classical and percussion, where there are drum fills, and cymbal crashes condensed and not, in actu. I think he does use an electric guitar in there somewhere but to just turn the amp on and maybe hit or bump it softly before turning off the mic. 2) A song with lots of noise in the style of blues. 3) Tuba? Comb and wax paper? Flies? Racetrack engines? Dirt bike maybe? A tinge of feedback at the end makes me wonder what he used to make it. 4) A drone makes this track more musical. Washing machine with three feet on the floor and flapping against thick paper tags.

I can imagine this guy taking a broken guitar out of the lobby, and whacking it with one of our mics in the studio while hand rotating a turntable and mixing a cd of solo percussions with a finger on the fast forward. Too bad he has passed away. Play the heck out of it, maybe someone will collect and issue his catalogue of self releases. New idol for dada diogenes.

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