Quasi Static Crack Propagation
One of the things I like about British label Consumer Waste is that the various unorthodox approaches and instrumentations it presents are never simply gimmicks, but are always integrated into forms that remain recognisable as music, different though they may be each time. The new CD by Brussels based sound artist Yann Leguay is a clear example of this. “Quasi Static Crack Propagation” is an album made by amplifying CD players, tape recorders and DAT machines with a wide range of pickups, but to my ears Leguay seems interested in more than simply making things hum, bringing his growling, burbling and hissing machines under the rubric of thoughtfully-composed rhythmic, timbral and harmonic structures.
I’m not sure what modifications Leguay makes to the electronic objects he uses, but he is capable of pulling some incredible sounds out of them, my favourite being the thick, full-bodied bass thud from the Sony D-NE1 CD Walkman (yes, the track titles give the model number of the device used, and yes, that bass thud is from the CD player, not being played by it). But aside from figuring out how to get various exposed circuits to make sounds, there is the inventiveness required to control them and to work within their limitations to produce something that is actually interesting to listen to. Leguay proves to be more than capable in this regard: the opening track, for example, builds stop-start melodic patterns using mostly just two tones, yet despite its limited means manages to be more engaging (for eight and a half minutes) than most pieces of music granted a full tonal range to play with.
Clearly, it’s a question of not only what you’ve got, but what you do with it, and throughout the album Leguay never finds himself short of interesting things to do with his re-purposed music-making machines. By hacking them and putting them to new uses, he subverts the designs and intentions of a global administered economy, with its categories of products for different target markets and use cases. This is not merely subversion for subversion’s sake, however, but a way of realising concrete cultural forms and practices that are more imaginative and less centrally controlled. Whether it’s building dense harmonic drone clusters, or stabbing a bass tone with shards of high-pitched fuzz, or simply letting things quietly rattle and whirr, Leguay seems to be constantly working out ways not only to make sounds, but to make new, surprising, and fun things with them — a creative rigour that makes “Quasi Static Crack Propagation” all the more enjoyable to listen to.