Boomkat Product Review:
More properly far-out transmissions from Oren Ambarchi's Black Truffle. This time it's a 1982 tape release that shows off Dutch free improviser Remko Scha's madcap mechanical ensemble - five guitars were hung from a wall, with devices attached to hit and bow the strings. It sounds completely beamed from the outerzone, sometimes like Christian Marclay's seminal 'Guitar Drag' or an opium den Velvet Underground sesh, and others like Eli Keszler jamming with Bill Orcutt. OK!
A founding member of Dutch radical improv group The Maciunas Ensemble, computational linguistics professor Remko Scha was a crucial part of the Netherlands' art world in the late '70s and early '80s. Scha was particularly interested in generative music, and developed a mechanized system for playing electric guitars that was part sculpture and part robot. When set up, the ensemble played itself - all Scha could do was change the speed of the system.
"Guitar Mural 1" is four long recordings of the ensemble, highlighting the hypnotic power of the setup and Scha's dedication to the form. There's little interaction from Scha himself and no post processing, we just get to hear the instruments as they play themselves, and all the tiny changes and accidental harmonies and rhythms that creates. There are echoes of Eli Keszler's similarly automated arduino-controlled sound sculptures, as well as Glenn Branca's no-wave classic 'Lesson No. 1 for Electric Guitar', Sonic Youth's atonal shred clouds and Charlemagne Palestine’s dueling pianos.
But Scha's constructions feel scientific and rigorous. He's not making music to shock, as such, but to explore the possibilities of a formula. It's almost early algorithmic art in a way, bent around the limitations of its day and set against the scuzzy backdrop of rock 'n roll. Recommended listening.