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CD Feature/ Novasak: "Alpha"; Jeff Gburek: "Red Rose for the Sinking Ship"

img  Tobias

In September, Triple Bath celebrated its second anniversary. For anyone with an eclectic musical taste, this was a feat to be celebrated. In the relatively short time of its existence, Themis Pantelopoulos’ label has effectively proven that there is not just a common denominator to Experimental Sound Art, Drones, Dark Ambient, the Avantgarde and Jazz, but that these genres may actually be mutually adding to their respective qualities when efficiently juxtaposed. Even though print runs have been limited to 96 copies, the fact that all but a few releases have by now sold out completely demonstrates that one of Athens’ most active citizens has been remarkable persuasive in spreading the message.

These two discs are just a small sample of a label catalogue which has been growing quickly yet with deliberation. Still, they make for a perfect illustration of the company’s dauntless diversity: Taking responsibility for the reckless Noise attacks of Novasak and Jeff Gburek’s timbral sensuality, Pantelopoulos points at the underground’s Achille’s heel: dispersion into myriads of warring factions, competing camps, doubled tongues and exclusive vocabularies. Placed side-by-side, however, these albums reveal a remarkable similarity in their aims.

At first, of course, the differences are more striking than the resemblances. “Alpha” is a mean beast of a record, a dense terrorscape of analogue frequency collisions, aggravated digital stabs and irritable sonic scar tissue. Novasak’s Tedd Novosak pitches one third of his sounds to dog’s ear level, tunes one third down to a malignant rumble and sets the remaining portion on fire in a smouldering explosion. The press release speaks about “sonic events as cosmic occurrences in a meta-scientific context”, but maybe it would be more correct to regard this as a music so driven and intense, that its physicality transcends into an electrifying beam of pure energy plugging straight into the brain’s synapses and neurotransmitters.

In any case, Novosak cares a lot for unchanneled release and little for remorseless noise for its own sake. There is a pronounced sense of dynamics in these drawn-out, almost epic structures. Space, too, is of seminal importance, with even harsh passages allowing for a certain headspace and empty matter waiting to be filled by the listener’s imagination. In the 35 minutes of the album’s core composition, “alpha part 2”, the whispered moments of ominous swellings are possibly more effective than the volcanic eruptions when the boiling musical magma is actually catapulted from Novasak’s belly.

And yet, compared even to those stretches of tranquility, the opening semblances of “Red Rose for the Sinking Ship” make you feel as though someone had cranked the volume all the way down. While “alpha” is all surface, an environment actively pushing towards you, Gburek inversely draws you in with sounds that always appear very close and very far away at the same time. He also eschews remaining stuck in the same mood for all too long – each work is an intimate meditation on a particular idea, process or mood, mediating tangible revelations before moving on to something completely different in the next piece.

The sonic palette is therefore impressively wide: A dance of bacteria on the first track, sharp and edgy textures and rhythmic scratchings on the second, warmly glistening chime-drones on the third. Later in the album, Gburek manages to lend a yearning finale to a piece of translucent, abrasive sheets of noise, concluding with a naive musicbox-loop.  

Many critics, possibly under the influence of the cover imagery, have mistaken the record to be a concrete depictation of Mao’s life. In fact, as Gburek points out, it deals with the universality of longing for a better world. In his music, he follows this train of thought by peeling beauty off intimidation and by arriving at form from formlessness. The fact that the instrumentation seems to be different on each piece adds to the theme, suggesting that it’s the vision rather than the tools that matters.

This is what connects these two albums and all but a few of the releases on the Triple Bath roster: They are willing to go beyond the outward appearance of their sounds, craving for depth and searching for meaning in places where others hear nothing but noise or nothing at all. On to a third aniversary then – now the only thing left to do for the label is to release a piece of classical music!

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Novasak
Homepage: Jeff Gburek
Homepage: Triple Bath

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