John Wall/Alex Rodgers
For a detailed breakdown and clarification of the sound and text
pieces used in this work go to jwarwork.wordpress.com
Wall and Rodgers have worked together informally and irregularly
for the best part of two decades, but it has been since Wall took the
leap into improvisation, roughly five years ago, that the potential
for their collaborations to become something more solid has evolved.
So the pair have worked together, either just informally in Wall's
studio or out playing live gigs since 2006, and they have produced
a body of material that Wall has then sculpted into the composition
that appears on the CD. The sounds that we hear then are the out-
put of that work together.
Although in places the mark of improvisation is clear the majority
of what we hear has been carefully picked out and resampled by
Wall alone into the structure presented here. So while recordings
of improvisations have been used in the final work, its important
to note that this album is essentially a composition pieced together
over a period of months rather than years.
This album has a real menace to it, a hint of violence, and a
thoroughly unsettling overtone. This comes partly from Wall’s sounds,
which have taken on a sharp, aggressive feel, with brutally piercing
tones matching sudden swerves from one sonic extreme to another,
but Rodgers’ contributions also play a big part. Both Wall and
Rodgers are outsiders looking in on the conventional art and music
worlds, neither of them seek to hide a real sadness that has developed
into a bitterness over the state of today’s modern world. While Wall’s
anger can be heard in the music, Rodgers’ spoken word parts are
equally acerbic. He sounds constantly on edge, his voice slurs in
places, growls in others and has a gruff bite to it that is only ampli-
fied by the cheap dictaphones used to record many of his parts. His
words move between a bitterly spat-out stream of angry obscenity-
ridden disgust and a carefully worked out and scripted sense of
surrealism all wrapped up in a Beckettian verbal sensibility. There
is a hint of automatic writing to his words, though Rodgers is at
pains to make clear that there are no stream of consciousness
practices at work, everything is carefully planned here.
This CD is a fascinating collection of sounds and words that reflects
the personalities of the duo perfectly. Wall keeps most of Rodgers
spoken parts intact and untreated, and builds his sounds around them,
working alone and only approving the recordings stage by stage with
Rodgers every so often. Its maybe not one for the faint-hearted, and
it will doubtlessly annoy those that might be expecting Wall to have
just picked up from where Cphon ended.
It’s as good a document of the kind of work Wall is currently involved
in as is possible, a great introduction to Alex Rodgers’ work and a fine
piece of music that constantly hints at collapse, nudges at the borders
of what computer composition is supposed to sound like.
The July 2011 issue of The Wire (329) features
an extensive interview with Wall and Rodgers
by Richard Pinnell
deserted rookery nook.
cawing or whining.
arguing or roaring.
attention of any sort,
no skein or froth.
no hook or drill
no clue or
up thrusting, (no hole for ye either.)
not even any
feets the notch
astride the perch
‘we have no licence’
you dont know unless you try eh?
John Wall has been one of the most aggressive of sonic plunderers,
shattering recorded electroacoustic improvisations and putting them
back as mutated humpty-dumptys in intricate and lively collages.
His series of CDs on his own imprint Utterpsalm are essential
documents of this meticulous studio style. Since 2006, he has taken
up improvisation — remarkable for someone with his attention to
detail — and has also pursued a working relationship with the poet
Alex Rodgers. The music on this CD represents an edited compilation
of their five years of working together. Wall’s music serves as both
interstices and background for Rodgers’ performances of his terse,
dark poetry, whose performances are occasionally processed but
more often stand on their own. Wall’s compositions sling sharp high
frequencies and granulated digital noise around Rodgers’ poetry,
creating a perfect amplification of the dark mood of Rodgers’ voice.
As sonic structures collapse and reform into misanthropic texts,
it is a deeply affecting listen.
Chris Kennedy in Musicworks Magazine
A fascinating release. A bit has been written on what a departure
this is for Wall, but I’m not sure. [A]side from the obvious prominence
of Rodgers’ voice, [what] I hear it as a not too wayward extension of
the previous works. Yes, it was constructed, labouriously one imagines
though not so much as had been the case on earlier releases; built
from improvisations but so had much of his music been before.
It’s pared down in terms of elements — just Wall and Rodgers —
but much of his music had been as well, even if there were half a
dozen contributors at a given moment; it tended to sound sparse
Rodgers’ texts are not at all improvised, though Wall seems to have
taken liberties rearranging and editing them. From what I understand,
the slight warping and other electronic effects imparted to his
voice are of his own devising as well as having recorded into a
cheap dictaphone, hence perhaps the up-closeness of his sound.
Wall balances his own contributions equitably, Rodgers phasing in
and out of a mix that’s not all too unlike Wall’s past work despite
(one assumes) not be derived from the instrumental work of others
and, as stated, having been improvised. It retains the silvery
thinness heard before, a unique and beautiful sound-world; I’ve
little doubt I would have recognised the music as Wall’s in a blind-
fold test. I often visualise a think plate of copper or zinc, with
various bumps, scratches and other ‘imperfections’ arrayed across
its softly gleaming surface. Rodgers, his words slurred, bitter and
Beckettian, adds just the right amount of soot... or suet. It really
meshes perfectly, not foregrounded so much, more embedded.
While certainly episodic in construction (as can be seen here,
the piece cleaves together seamlessly as a whole, a bleak cascade
of shards and syllables, like little else you'll hear. An excellent
Brian Olewnick at Just Outside
As Alex Rodgers puts it, in a voice halfway between declamation and
moan: “All the protocols of surface tension/The necessary resistance
of the other”. An alllusive and wonderfully nuanced merging of text and
digital sound, Work 2006–2011 negotiates a precarious power balance.
Rodgers’s poetry, delivered ina deadpan monotone, touches on obtuse
metaphors and odd symbols, playing on the menacing banalities
of everyday speech. Wall’s contributions — surprisingly harsh, often
outright vicious, with an emphasis on rupture and cut-away —
surround it cleverly. In contract to Cphon, his most recent solo
release, he favours a kind of digital mark-making, relying on flurries
of pointillistic smears, serrated crackles and volatile pitch fragments.
When Rodgers’ voice disappears, he weaves delicate, lattice-like
pattern from tones flitting wildly across the stereo spectrum.
Nick Cain in The Wire