Boomkat Product Review:
Following a major retrospective at The Tate St Ives, forgotten art maverick Marlow Moss (1889-1958) - a radical, gender-bending British Jewish lesbian and innovator of non-figurative art - is the inspiration and the focus of this new LP from Primitive World for the Ecstatic label. Crafted from various synth improvisations, including the rare and tricky PPG Wave synth/sampler, it comes highly recommended if you’re into Peder Mannerfelt’s brut ambient, Raster Noton’s grid-based rhythmic fascinations, or Pan Sonic at their most glacial.
White On White forms a follow-up of sorts to Willis’ Ascention tape, and perhaps more aptly, leads on from his and Not Waving's reworks of Daphne Oram - arguably another overlooked, British female pioneer of her field - which are collected on their Walls album, Sound Houses. There’s little doubt that this new album contains some of Willis’ strongest solo work, which can be attributed to the fecund inspiration of Moss’s work, life and theories, as well as his access to a prized arsenal of rare vintage synths.
Titled after the Moss piece which adorns the LP’s front cover, White On White forms a welcome first introduction for many to Moss’s “work, life and theories” thru a combination of visual representations - photographs of the artist and her work - with text by Lucy Howarth, curator of Moss’s recent exhibitions at Museum Haus Konstruktiv exhibition (2017), the touring Tate display (2013-15), and of course the music itself, which seeks to describe Moss’s mathematically sound geometries and evocative aesthetics thru its lattice of unique, free-floating timbres and spatialized rhythm patterns.
White On White is thus a direct result of the artist immersing himself in Moss’s oeuvre, or what is left of it (most of her pre-WWII output was destroyed in the war), with results strongly reflective of the austere clarity and modernist structure of her works, from her syncopated line drawings modelled in the helixes of Double Lines, to the rotating perspectives of her 2D-into-3D metal sculpture manifest in the illusive, Peder Mannerfelt-like designs of Matrix of the Visible, whereas the closing 9 minutes of perilous abstraction recalling Wendy Carlos’ Clockwork Orange OST in Man Guessed at a Spiritual Meaning and Imposed a Moral System both literally and metaphorically serves a sort of unsentimentally elegiac, enigmatic lament for the artist’s neglected status, which even now prompts a scratch of the head by people who should be aware of her work.
A proper ear n' eye-opener.