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CD Feature/ Joel Stern: "Objects, Masks, Props"

img  Tobias

Joel Stern toys with the indistinctness of sounds, forging enchanted similarities from clearly delineated distinctions, painting glosses one on another, and opening up intervals of spacing in which differences arise anew. This isn't to say there's something particularly arbitrary or fickle about the proceedings. As has been known for some time, there has always been a certain kinship between madness and poetry; and, though the tracks here contain elements of both, they always take their lodgings in the latter.

Stern works with an 'other language', one just beneath the surface, where unshakable dualities reside. To keep up and reflect them, he moves with haste and levity. On "Concertina For Henri Mouhot" his configurations throw up shadowy angles across the stereo spectrum as the piece shudders to its riotous conclusion. Further pieces don't tend to let up; they propel the listener around at varying speeds and altitudes while still locking them in orbit around the gravitational pull of the rasping drones and spectral melodies. "Fortitudes End" is a fine example of this, it's nest of garbled voices gobble at alien frequencies as a sad harmonium melody plays from within the thicket. 

In fact, Stern traverses a number of styles at a stroke: musique concrete, electronica, psychadelia, and noise are all found in ample measure, spread out, juxtaposed, broken down and rebuilt into a complex and mobile whole. The work thus avoids any semblance of kitsch or pastiche. Objects, Masks, Props, some six years in the making, is nothing short of a strategically mischievous deployment of the right wrong sounds.

By Max Schaefer

Homepage: Joel Stern
Homepage: Nature Strip Records

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