I would like the work to be non work… it is something, it is nothing – Eva Hesse
For his new outing on Error Broadcast, Giuseppe Ielasi has adopted the moniker Inventing Masks. No other external markers are given to identify his new composition. As customary in his work, there are no titles, just the track durations, as if to avoid having the signifier condition any possible reading of the music itself. The only exception being with his 2010 release on 12k, Tools, where the everyday objects utilised to create the tracks (Cooking Pan, Rubber Band, Polystyrene Box, Metal Rod etc) were used as titles in order to demystify the creative process.
The choice of the artwork for Inventing Masks is telling. It depicts two virtually identical pools of water in a rock formation and it comes courtesy of the German photographer Yana Wernicke, from her series Totem, taken during her travels in Cameroon. This points to Ielasi’s ongoing interest in African rhythms, via the musical traditions of Peuls, for instance, and to naturally occurring geometrical patterns that Wernicke introduces in her meditation on the interdependence of life and the elements.
The materiality at play underscores the rhythmic pulse that builds a cohesive and cogent structure to the album as a whole. There is no narrative suggested, no horizontal timeline to follow, only circular surfaces bubbling with reverberating sonic “accidents” deliberately out of synch and set against clipped melodies. The playfulness with which Ielasi orchestrates the album emerges from the endless variation of the syncopated loops that was already so prominent in his turntable Stunt series. This is serial order as a method not a style, repetition devoid of meaning, as a means to encounter the nonsensical through permutation, progression and rotation, to paraphrase Mel Bochner and his article “The Serial Attitude” about the late German-born, American artist Eva Hesse, published in Artforum in 1967. Indeed, tracks like 6’48” remind me of Hesse’s sculpture Accession, very clear on the outside but with an amazingly chaotic interior. Even more so, it is her Circle Drawings and Grid Drawings that, to me, echo the spirit of Inventing Masks with their tactile texture achieved through layer upon layer of diluted ink giving a three dimensional, spatial effect to her two dimensional circular forms.
“The subtle washes and the lucid geometric shapes fuse to form a spatial and corporeal object,” is how the art critic Petra Roettig describes Eva Hesse’s No Title drawing depicting two large concentric forms, one beneath the other, inside two squares of equal size. Separated form one another only by razor-thin spaces, the squares are rendered in the same dark gray as the circles, which become darker in a series of gradations toward their centres.
Inventing Masks shares a similar sensual approach, with gently pulsing sonic forms defined with clarity bordering on the palpable. A vertical descent into an aural space where ludic activity is encouraged.
Inventing Masks is available now in vinyl format on Error Broadcast.