Michael Speers impresses with a killer debut album of absorbing listening environments that blur the line between synthesis and field recordings, released via C.A.N.V.A.S. - the London-based co-op imprint behind Elvin Brandi’s cracking ‘Shelf Life’ EP and the ‘Cipher’ comp starring Flora Yin-Wong, Object Blue, Ashley Paul, Ben Vince, Ausschuss and others. Deeply immersive listening, highly recommended if yr into Autechre, Giuseppe Ielasi, Mika Vainio, :Zoviet*France, Cairo’s 1127.
Stemming from Speers’ background as a percussionist and technician testing large amounts of audio equipment, ‘xtr’ctn’ pairs nanoscopic recordings of electronic equipment’s internal behaviours with samples of the natural world and feedback from no-input mixers to yield a visceral and inventively personalised view on sound phenomena and resonant spaces that lay beyond the threshold of human perception. Arranging his unique palette of field recordings, SFX library, YouTube samples and original instrumentation by Olan Monk into non-linear, non-narrative structures, he invites the listener to immerse in a form of sonic fiction which highlights the fine line between referential, objective reality and pareidolic subjectivity.
Distinguished by an otherworldy, meta sense of detachment shared with music by Giuseppe Ielasi, Mika Vainio, and :Zoviet*France:, the four pieces form a fascinating sonic weltanschauung that acknowledges and articulates the complex role of non-human and material sound generators upon the self. From the way seagulls resemble death metal screams in ‘obturo’ to the uncanny manner in which Olan Monk’s piano pulse and samples of Liam Byrne’s viola de gamba in ’tombeau’ recalls a scene of ravenous whistle and horn blowing at The Eclipse in Coventry c. 1992, each piece is densely packed with acousmatic data that will stimulate a broad range of reactions as listeners fill in the perceptive gaps according to their own sferic conditioning and grasp of worlds natural, and synthetic.
Where the first two pieces steer clear of any blatant emotive cues, the fragmented shrapnel that opens ’sul. locus’ changes at the mid-way point with the suggestively gloomy strokes of a Kemençe, a stringed middle-eastern instrument held in subtle contrast with the sound of ice hacking taken from a 1984 BBC SFX library sample to sound like a location recording from an alchemist’s lab, or passages of When’s proto-BM classic ‘The Black Death’, while ‘ορμή’ follows with an eerie vent of percussive improv, the sound of filing metal, and a pressure washer that recall the lurching rhythm and gauntlet grasp of textures also found in the remarkable debut by Cairo’s 1127.
It all points to a penetrative pair of ears and mind that sees the world differently, and should inspire listeners to pay closer attention to the world around them.