Stian Balducci's Gråtone label (founded 2015) has ambition. Not the world-domination kind of ambition TV versions of record labels would have you believe in (those old dinosaurs began dying out when you figured out how to use Napster back at the turn of the millennium, and have become bones rattling around a virtual museum since Spotify began inventing artists to fill playlists): it has an artistic and homegrown ambition. Gråtone releases a kind of cross-genre electroacoustic techno-improvisational music springing from Kristiansand in Norway. With that, it's no surprise to learn that Stian Balducci has been a Punkt alum for some years now, and with that, less surprising that this album (barely so called, in today's world – it weighs in around 30 minutes), "The Periphery of a Building" by Audun Kleive andJan Bang, is released by his label.
And it should be pointed out that the surprise is lacking because Stian Balducci is a shockingly talented artist, and such artists tend to stick together and have each other's backs. A good thing, too. Considering we live in a world where everything (literally EVERYTHING) can be commodified by large corporations, from coffee shops to craft beers, to rebellion and hippiedom, etc etc etc, the emergence and continuing existence of labels like Gråtone is representative of an act of free will, indeed, almost an act of defiance, in the face of a homogenized mainstream. Yes, a homogenized voice that emerges organically is not necessarily a bad thing, but one that is imposed for the purposes of market manipulation (i.e. the musical mainstream as it currently stands) certainly isn't. But, as always, I digress. Suffice to say it simply: "Good job, Stian!"
So, what of "The Periphery of a Building"? Well, let's first discuss Audun Kleive and Jan Bang. Audun is one of Norway's (probably the world's) premier musical thing-hitters (aka percussionists/drummers) and composers, and has appeared on more albums than you might have in your collection right now; Jan is - as I somewhat flippantly described him once, many years ago – "the bestest button-pusher in the world EVER", which is to say, he is a leading edge live sampler and remixer, as well as producer and co-founder of the Punkt Festival. And Punkt is important here – it provides the source material for the album. Rather, it provides a jumping-off point.
Kleive and Bang revisit recordings of live remixes made at various Punkt Festivals; specifically, Eténèsh Wassié & Mathieu Sourisseau, Atom™ and Clarinet Factory & Floex. And this isn't simple curation of selected recordings for 2 sides of a platter – it's a re-envisioning. Or, if you wish to be slightly cheeky to a degree, remixes of remixes.
The first three re-remixes (dear CHRIST, but when you're dealing with this level of transgression, you're inevitably going to end up with stupid turns of phrase like that … or stuff like post-post-postmodernism … it almost conveys something, but whatever that something is, it remains visible-but-always-out-of-reach. So. Pointless, then. Yet what to say without it …?) Yeah … the first three tracks (Azmari Woman/Azmari Beat/Model Kit) are short, compressed, slightly agitated, busy, dense, referential, affectionately irreverent, and generally brilliant while remaining (somehow) almost insubstantial, and teetering on the edge of inconsequential. It's a dangerous balancing act (one that Punkt audiences are very familiar with; indeed, that danger provides a near-narcotic frisson to the live remix festival that cannot be obtained readily elsewhere, aside from its conceptually close relatives/homages Tape2Zero and LilleNorge). I'm not saying these three tracks are non-essential, or below-par. However, when track four, the epic "Sister Silver" comes in, the previous three feel like amuse-bouche before a 5-course meal: you might remember them afterwards, but they certainly aren't the main topic of after-dinner conversation. The greater space and expansive weaving of elements is a joyous artifice, meditative, reflective, texturally satisfying, sinuous, and utterly circumfluent to a gravitational artistic nucleus. It is a tremendously beautiful thing. It is the reason you bought your ticket, and the three support acts were great, but it asserts and stamps its authority across the entire platter.
For the curious, the press release makes no mention of the whys and wherefores of the titles of both tracks and album. The first two tracks reference "Azmari", which is a handy term that covers the inclusion (and beautifully executed inclusion it is) of Eténèsh Wassié (An "Azmari" is an Ethiopean singer of an improvisational bent, similar to the griot or bard or Flamenco singer). This much is straightforward. "Model Kit" is less obvious (drumkit??? Airfix kit? ) and "Sister Silver" might be a reference to Czech author Jachym Topol's "City Sister Silver", but who knows? As for the album title, "The Periphery Of A Building" may be a reference to "Nothingness Theory" as found in Corey D. Kaup's work " Taking Back America - An Immediate Solution to America's Economic, Political and Environmental Crises "… maybe. A key quote from an addendum to that book on Kaup's nothingnesstheory.com site runs thus:
In the case of efficient use of energy, thermodynamic systems are the main target for analysis. Weather systems, for example, express excursion to and from equilibrium via the motion of air, water, heat, and electromagnetic radiation.
This flow in natural systems is circulatory. Even a seemingly perfect linear motion is only the segment of an arc. The earth is curved, space/time is curved, and the universe is defined by expanding curvature. The vortex is nature’s pathway for summing these multiple scales of circulation in complex natural systems to achieve low energy equilibrium.
To capture flow therefore, look to the periphery and master circulation. The eye of a hurricane is the very definition of stillness while its walls express the chaotic violence of unstoppable motion. The periphery of a building for example, would be its walls, floors, ceilings, and roof. These thresholds between the internal and external environment are where significant energetic transactions take place.
When listening to the album, this seems entirely appropriate, whether this was intentional or not.
I guess I could just ask, but hell! Theorizing is more fun.
Fans of the Punkt milieu will find this album to be indispensable, and utterly essential; fans of innovative and exploratory music should find it no less so. Buy, and listen!