jackhammer meditation: seth cooke’s pneumatic logic

January 25, 2013 at 8:51 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Seth Cooke – Pneuma (CD-r, LF Records, LF028)

seth cooke - pneuma

Ahh…Seth Cooke: polymath, renaissance man, musician of note, inventive collaborator, co-caretaker of Bang the Bore and owner of the most luxuriously strokable beard in improv (which is a hotly contested honour, as you can imagine).  When he moved from Leeds to Bristol howls of anguish were heard around the noise community here.  ‘How could we have let this one slip through our fingers?’ we moaned.  An emergency committee was convened to make sure it never happened again.  Manacles were mentioned.  Clearly the issue needs more thought.  Anyway: he escaped and Leeds’ loss has been Bristol’s gain.  Not only has he networked his way onto every art-noise bill promoted in that fair city but the area’s microlabels are clamouring for his product.  See, for example, the release pictured above on the flavour-of-the-month LF Records.

There is an entertaining back story to the genesis of Pneuma that can be read at LF or on Seth’s own new website (well worth clicking around).  Suffice to say here that a major element of the composition is the sound of pneumatic drills at work.  It is a noise that has a long pedigree in experimental music (especially industrial music, for obvious reasons).  I remember my old mate Kev (still kickin’ it down in that Brighton as Mouthful of Worms) once telling me that he’d learnt two things about life.  The first was:

I prefer the sound of a pneumatic drill to all music

…and the second was so unspeakably filthy that it cannot be repeated on a family blog.  Moving swiftly on…

This source material is not hidden behind walls of processing, it couldn’t be clearer what we are being treated to (especially on the second track), however Seth has very cleverly realised what the key component of this sound is.  A lesser musician may have amped the pummelling racket of the giant steel needle unstitching the tarmac, but not him.  Instead he focuses our attention on the ringing of the loose metal parts of the machine caused by its juddering movement.  This is foregrounded in the mix by augmenting it with crotales and complimentary feedback tones.  The overall feel is therefore shifted from the brute physicality of hairy-arsed, horny-handed-sons-of-toil tearing up concrete with machine tools to a more spiritual realm where a monastery of Buddhist monks collaborate with a visiting gamelan orchestra by getting busy with hundreds of singing bowls.  It is surprisingly refreshing and, as the two tracks total about three quarters of an hour, makes for excellent early morning walking to work music (as I think Kev Petals may have already observed elsewhere).

Speaking of walking to work: it may pain some of you to find out, especially after the paragraph praising tape in the Mantile review below, that almost all of the music I listen to is in mp3 format and heard via earbuds on my commute.  They’re high bit rate mp3s and good-quality ear-buds, for what it is worth, but I can sense the purer purists out there sadly shaking their heads.  BUT I know that Seth is a fan of close, high-end, transparent recording in the music he listens to for fun (as he has a telephone based job where all day is spent listening to ultra-compressed, lo-fi shouting) and so did him the courtesy of listening in WAV format too and on my actual stereo – y’know, sat down in a room like a civilised adult and all that – and it is crystal clear.  His faultless attention to detail does him credit and serves the recording admirably.

This is a top-spec item, packaged in a lovely colour sleeve, and comes highly recommended by me.  What more do you need?

Buy here.

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