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CD Feature/ Helena Gough: "With what Remains"

img  Tobias

One of the many activities Helena Gough is involved in consists of travelling the country for the Sonic Postcards Projects, approaching youngsters with the intent of bringing them closer to environmental listening and teaching them to record their understanding of the world themselves in order to subsequently use these tapings for their very own compositions. After having listened to “With what remains” innumerable times now, I really couldn’t think of a single person better equipped or more talented for the job.

What it takes to fully appreciate this work, though, are plenty of time and a mind cleared from all superflous thoughts and distractions. All of us rely on expectations and a certain scheme of promises and disappointments. Even the most wayward music eventually settles in a comfortable mode of not giving in to what listeners want to hear. “With what remains” is different, though. It manages to create the illusion of still being part of this string of reasoning, while in reality it has long severed all ties. Gough is not a hermit, but her style is a highly personal one, tapping into potentials which are still communicable but which tend to release their information in a way which inevitably changes some if its meaning in the translation process: Her sound materials are from her direct domestic environment and consistently plucked apart to a point where they can no longer be traced back to their place of origin. In the ensuing process, new structures are established, placing the elements in various contexts and waiting for them to blossom on foreign fields. Decoding the building blocks of the tracks has thereby become impossible, at least within the reasoning of deductive logic. Also, by allowing the sounds to basically start working on their own, the composer has entered the principle of double-blindfolding and at least partly deducted herself from the music. It is here that the album starts its fascination, for it leaves the premises of a mere display of effects to start working as a dialogue, even as a feedback loop which will in turn provide its creator with valuable insights and creative stimuli for the future. You simply can not predict where this is going: Deep bass thumps might lead to the cracklings of old vinyl, to purring particle chains or to meditative drones stepping to the beat of an ancient gong. As the different elements turn up again and again, it would even be impossible to tell where exactly on the rotating disc of this amorphic rockscape you are right now. To me, it also means that the original intent of conceiving these soundworks as individual spaces has not entirely worked out – rather, everything melts into one single, big space, which you can enter and leave at will, and which will retain its wondrousness regardless of how often you walk its corridors.

“With what remains” offers a lot of interpretations, but one of its most striking features certainly is that it has attained a fascinating and unprecedented level of idiosyncrasy. It also demonstrates that it is really the debate about form and the way in which sound events are juxtaposed, which is most exciting and rewarding at the moment – as it offers the best chance to truly surprise listeners. Just playing this album to school classes all over the country will provide us with a rich new generation of sound experimenters.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Helena Gough
Homepage: Helena Gough at MySpace
Homepage: entr'acte Records

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