John Wall & Mark Durgan - Contrapt
Harbinger Sound CD. Harbinger164.
I had to wait for the ears to clear before entering once more the world of Wall & Durgan. Its a world where Durgan mans the synths and Wall the computer. Durgan I’m familiar with. He doesn’t seem to release that much these days so any release with his name on that come this way is warmly welcome. John Wall not so, but according to the sleeve notes he’s credited with ‘computer/editing/arrangement and composition’, Durgan with ‘modular synthesiser and signal processing’. Contrapt being the distillation of three years worth of free improvisation between the two. Wall is, by all accounts, known for the severity of his editing. A man for whom the words ‘spare seconds’ have been eradicated from his vocabulary. Thus the results between the two are what you might call action packed. Action packed computer edited modular synthesizer signaled processed sounds. It's the only place to be.
Not having perfect hearing in both lug holes makes listening to the likes of this a waste of time. Its like walking around an art gallery with shades on, like reading only the even pages of Gravitys Rainbow, you kind of get the idea in both instances but not the true picture. Or sound. You might as well put your head in a washing machine and have someone hit it with hammers. Which is something that Durgan might well have done at some point but not on here. I realised things were going south hearing wise while listening to The Fall track ‘Bombast’, Hanley’s bass reduced to an impatient foot tap, weak and meagre gruel where once stood a stand pie and pickle. And then there was improvement. Did I tell you my ears were fucked? Oh yes. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. To use an optical metaphor. At first a light crackling inside the skull. Like eating popping candy with your mouth shut, sounds traveling up through the head. Light relief. Air escaping. A bit like Contrapt.
So I’m not going deaf after all. A slight tinnitus that becomes apparent when I sit in total silence. I’ve Jazkamer to thank for that. Its something I can live with.
I can live with Contrapt too. Each track a slowly dwindling set of letters ending in ‘Pt’ that are of a whole. Each track seeming to move on organically, one from the other. No large shift in sound from ‘Ntrapt’ to ‘Apt’. Tracks that are filled with the flutter of tiny bubbles, digital chatter, the processed sound of bicycle chain being dropped in to a Quality Street tin. ‘Trapt’ leans towards the noisier end of the scale with digital tape rapidly spooling by, exploding flash bulbs pops and the squiggle squirt of almost rhythm.
Being familiar with Durgan and not with Wall stands me in good stead, I can hear what Durgan’s doing and what Wall is doing to Durgan. If you pardon the expression. Durgan’s brushing of springs and coils signal processed and then no doubt processed again by Wall. All this processing means that most tracks flit by in a flurry of micro sounds. On ‘Rapt’ nothing sits for more than a second, whizzes, burrs, chirrups and electronic groans, with only last track [and longest at 12 minutes] ‘Pt’ finding some space and with it the most reflective, contemplative outing.
This convergence of modular synth and computer generated sounds has me rapt. An endlessly fascinating, revealing and rewarding listen. Especially if you have good ears.