Four soundworks germinated with co-existence in mind.
Four points along a route of continual transformation.
Environments formed of magnified degradations and eruptions.
Single cells and clusters multiplied and mutated.
Spaces disrupted by small collapses and stark ruptures.
Mikroklimata is Helena Gough’s second solo album.
“Powerful, expressive 21st century musique concrète”—The Wire
Discovered in studio backyard, Berlin, during
the intensive period of Mikroklimata’s creation.
Photograph by Helena Gough, January 2010
Gough creates her stunning work on a computer, shaping
an array of heavily processed sources—from bassist George
Cremaschi’s and trumpeter Peter Evans’ live playing to field
recordings—like abstract building blocks. She’s referred to the
swift, surprising arrival of new sounds and rhythmic motives
as ‘edges’, and, indeed, there is an improvisational, front-like
quality to every new influx, dispensing or dissolving its pre-
decessor. Despite the seemingly restless shifts, deliberate,
recurring patterns in the varying waves underline Gough’s
Peter Margasak in DownBeat
Helena Gough’s sound art makes you feel in need of a password
in order to access her world, and it’s not a given that you’ll be
able to identify with what’s really meant in there. The previous
With What Remains had been a fantastic debut, certainly not
easy to duplicate. Now Mikroklimata — recorded at the artist’s
home in Berlin — throws another set of problems altogether in
our face, last but not least the eternal question dealing with the
inadequateness of words as opposed to the enormous variety
of timbres, nuances and codes that an open-minded composer
— Gough surely is — is capable of bringing out from the circuits
of a laptop. What she creates is both difficult to pin down and
absolutely remunerative in psychophysical terms.
Various planes of spectral gradations intersect in total absence
of commonly intended tonality, the fluid structures characterised
by recurrent malformations, gaseous multiplications and immer-
sive pulse. Disseminations of pseudo-cybernetic mechanisms
(the title of the first track, Tephra, sounds like a homage to
Roland Kayn) are followed by the gurgle of deteriorating liquids
running within curled conduits which, at the end of their length,
reveal points of blinding light that come unexpected yet consti-
tute a reassuring vision. Frequencies that seem to lay dormant
suddenly produce luxuriously puzzling reticulations that guide
the brain through the understanding process instead of displac-
ing the few familiar elements to kick your concentration’s ass.
A specimen of modern computer music which is not going to
give anything away for small change, this CD needs plenty of
focus and the methodical ejection of preconceptions from a
listener’s insides, but will reward proportionally. Second ace by
this silence-loving girl who breaks that very quietness via idio-
syncratic messages stuffed with digitalised biotic dichotomies.
Massimo Ricci at Touching Extremes
As a sculptor might bury their hands in their chosen media,
or chip away at a block until what remains stands as a physical
manifestation of what exists in their imagination, so Helena
Gough’s music is the end product of a long process of collecting
and manipulating material, kneading it, tearing it, reducing it
down, building it back up, somehow knowing when to stop and
present what is left.
Gough is a composer working in the digital realm. This, her
second album, comes nearly four years after the first, with
the intervening years spent gathering small fragments of sound
from a variety of places, which she then processed and altered
continually until finally weaving them together in an intensive
session of concentrated intuitive composition lasting just a few
months. The sounds that appear on Mikroklimata began life
as field recordings, digital and analogue synth experimentation
and recordings of acoustic improvisation sessions by George
Cremaschi and Peter Evans. The origins of the sounds are all
long gone, however, lost in the process of crunching the material
into its malleable state. If there ever was recognisable bass or
trumpet sounds in here, they lost their identifying character
some way down the line.
The four pieces that come out of the other end of this process
sound thoroughly physical. Twisting, turning knots of sound
tighten and unravel as they progress along their muscular
journey, full of rapid shifts in pace and dynamic. Gough’s sound-
world is thoroughly digital, the natural acoustic presence of the
displaced samples is replaced by a vibrant synthetic torsion as
they come back together in composition. However, despite the
computerised texture and minute detail of its constituent parts,
Mikroklimata sounds very human, its shapes and progressions
resembling an improvising saxophonist in full flight. Not unlike
the music of Gough’s contemporary John Wall, these compositions
somehow sound fluid and natural, as if played by some massed
orchestra of alien instruments rather than pieced together from
hundreds of smaller fragments. Powerful, expressive musique
concrète for the 21st century, Mikroklimata stands out from the
crowd as a work of considerable substance.
Richard Pinnell in The Wire