Anthems For Unsuccessful Winners F r a n c i s c o M e i r i n o
FRANCISCO MEIRINO’S PHROQ - CONNECTIONS, OPPORTUNITIES FOR MISTAKES
CD, Shiver Sounds Records, 300 copies, dec. 2008
All tracks assembled at Shiver Mobile in Switzerland, Japan and Usa by Francisco Meirino 2007-2008
1 Stress Recording Of Distress
2 Minidisc Failure
3 Highspeed Pulse Deterioration
4 The Death Of A P.A.
5 The Sound Of Failure
7 Broken Cassette Recorder
8 Alternate Attempt Of Ending
"Connections, opportunities for mistakes" is based on the idea of recording what is not supposed to be: minidisc recording failures, the death of a PA system, electro-static background noises, broken cassette recorder and so forth."
R E V I E W S
Asymmetry Music Magazine
Francisco Meirino’s 2009 release is all about the sounds music machines make when they’re failing–minidisc players, P.A. systems, cassette recorders, and so forth. And very interesting and musical sounds they do make, to be sure. But it’s not just a lot of nice sounds that makes this album so rewarding to listen to. It’s the keen ear and musical intelligence of Francisco Meirino creating complex, cunningly layered tracks, some only seconds long but still carefully and lovingly crafted. Or are they? The phrase makes you wonder: opportunities for mistakes. Is that about the failing machines, or is that about being open as a composer for the unexpected or the unplanned? Either way, the results, for us, are nothing but delightful.
Track one is called Stress recording of distress. After some loud, high frequency bursts, it settles down to a complex wall of grit and static, with a subtle throbbing underneath it all. Various high pitched, pulsing electronic hums come in, to the front and middle of the sound stage. (The recordings are all crystal clear and the axes of height and depth come across very well, even on a modest home system.)
This is followed by the very short (22 seconds) Minidisc failure, which is hiss, loud clanks, hiss, very loud, high shrieks.
Highspeed pulse deterioration is a very rich, dense piece–and “dense” is probably a misnomer, as every “line” is so clean and distinct. There’s a lot going on in this piece is all. After a fairly steady (complex but regular) state is achieved, there are added all sorts of asynchronous other bits, some of which are close enough to machine-like regularity (without actually being regular) to be really disorienting.
Track four, The death of a P.A., is also quite short, and also quite sweet. A very loud opening followed by a soft, thumping section with some metallic ringing sounds. It sounds, I assure you, much more beautiful than that bare description.
The sound of failure is a mix of acoustic and electronic mechanical sounds. This, again, is more interesting to listen to than it may sound from that description, if only because the line between acoustic and electronic here is rarely distinct. In fact, were I to find that it’s all electronic, I wouldn’t be surprised. The steady whir and clank of machine sounds, in any event, makes a nice background to the more randomly distributed creaks and chirps. Added to that are some other regular repetitive sounds going on at different speeds. The piece builds very slowly to an excruciating climax.
The title track, Connections, establishes two continuous lines, one very high and one very low. Other little sounds come and go until a loud buzz appears, swells louder, and fades away. After that, the other sounds are not so little any more, more prominent and more persistent. A sudden sharp sound ends the piece.
The last two tracks, Broken cassette recorder and Alternate attempt of ending, are, like tracks two and four, very short. They are also, like two and four, very sweet as well.
Not that you’ll ever listen to this album track by track as I did to make this review. In fact, there’s an instruction on the back of the jewel case, right underneath the track listing: “Continuous playback recommended.” I recommend it too. I also recommend playing this CD over and over again. You won’t be sorry!
Usually reviewing noise can be trying. Noise can end up sounding quite anonymous if it's not done well and the experience can be tedious – at best, and annoying at worst. "Connections, Opportunities for Mistakes" however is a breath of something very minty fresh into the coffee smelling noise landscape we all love.
From the very begining this promises to be an experience in old school analogue noise, and very ominous noise at that – however also very low key and ambient. The lengthy track builds slowly, utilizing sounds that seem culled from the world of electro accoustics. The sound makes me think of faulty insulation in electric circuits. It's a dangerous kind of goodness. And, as the press release informs us "'Connections, opportunities for mistakes' is based on the idea of recording what is not supposed to be: minidisc recording failures, the death of a PA system, electro-static background noises, broken cassete recorder etc..." Measured against this goal, the album is a complete success.
It is hardly surprising that Phroq is quite accomplished as a musician, and visual artist as well. Under his given name Francisco Meirino he has published a great deal of music, in addition to visual art of various types, since 1994. This dedication to art shines through and the concept behind the album is very consistent and perfectly executed. There is no doubt that one is actually listening to sounds of failing equipment.
As per the nature of the material the tracks vary in length, from the very short and interruptive "minidisc failure" to the meditative, and long, "Stress recording of distress" or "Highspeed Pulse detorioration". This variation is consistent throughout the record, varying from abrupt to soothing. From slowly building to sudden and disturbing. None of the tracks are boring, not a sound is superfluous and everything is drenched in thick atmosphere. It's really impressive, considering the source material, how the compositions can sound so dynamic, moody and calming. While we are certainly deep inside noise land, there is nothing harsh or unpleasent about this piece. The few seconds of edgier sounds only serves to deepen the rest of the cd. The only drawback is that the tracks are hard to distinguish from each other, but this is a minor thing. The tracks are meant to set a mood, and the CD should be considered as a whole. The track markers are in fact somewhat redundant. I can't imagine listening to this cd without going through the whole thing, and as such it is hard to point to a single track that surpasses the others. It's hard to sum up this cd as anything short of a master piece. Impressive, really impressive.
In this project Phroq, aka Francisco Meirino, uses malfunctioning minidiscs, cassettes and CD players in a work that investigates the glorious end of an amplification system. Together with continuous interferences and electrostatic noises - expressed in different forms and intensities - they reach the status of an interesting sound-art overture, revealing influences that have been around for a while in the international electronic scene.
Starting from an awareness of modulating unusual sounds in audio events, carefully oriented to a sensitization of our auditory apparatus, 'Connections, Opportunities For Mistakes' is explicit in following a long line of contemporary experiments that deal with the 'poetics of error' - interweaving recombinant influences and media short circuits in an aesthetic characterized by strategies, both ethereal and post-human.
It's the last generation of noise, multi-faceted in references and inspirations, including environmental and free form perspectives.
"This disc is based on the idea of recording what is not supposed to be, gear failures, the death of a PA system, unknown background noises." So writes Lausanne-based Francisco Meirino, aka Phroq (where did he get the name from, I wonder?), and that's all the info we get on the back of the disc along with a brief note to the effect that the music was assembled and mastered in San Francisco (local noiseniks Scott Arford and Randy Yau get a namecheck).
It may set out to document the sound of failure – that's the name of one of the album's eight tracks too – but musically Connections is a resounding success. It may be interesting to know where the sounds come from (malfunctioning cassette recorders and minidisc players are also listed), but what matters is what Meirino does with them; these are carefully crafted compositions, assembled with meticulous attention to detail and a keen ear for structure. Meirino's been fine-tuning his art for a decade and a half, and it shows.
Listeners to EAI and noise will be familiar with the sounds – buzzes, beeps, crackles, fizzes and the odd blast of devastating feedback – but it's great to hear them channelled into coherent compositional forms.
Come to think of it, this review probably belongs in the Contemporary section above – and the disc itself belongs in your record collection.
As writers and chin-strokers increasingly step up the rhetoric on the death of EAI, Francisco Meirino, aka Phroq, quietly places two new releases on the shelf for our consideration, both of which are reminders that lateral thought benefits music, be it through the formulation of new techniques or the exploration of tonal relationships.
Meirino's been around for a while, and in his 15 years of sound dissection he's certain to have seen a thing or two, not least the occasional emergence of debates around the viability or general health of certain music. These days, Meirino is primarily interested in something akin to a Cageian environment. While he doesn't seem married to the concept of environment-as-accompaniment, he has some excitement about the ghosts in the machines themselves. For instance, it could be argued that a failed disk drive is a casualty brought on by its surroundings, but we're not so interested in the why here as much as the what.
On Connections, Opportunities for Mistakes (Shiver Sounds), Meirino explores and exploits the relationship between programmable material and the potential for its failure. Any improviser can tell you that the best riffs are often found by accident perhaps resulting from the failure of others to keep up. A relay within a circuit is commonly placed to allow for electronic continuity in the event of component failure. Often a system's continuity succeeds with glitches undetected. One of the most interesting tracks is the shortest at roughly 20 seconds, "Minidisc Failure" is amplified n times to expose a device's aural characteristics on a bad day. The disc's ruling effect is its harsh ambiance, cleverly crafted using sources that would not have a place in music otherwise.
...You guys should definitely check out the Phroq discs if you get the chance.
Very highly recommended.
De Chop Shop à Joe Colley en passant par Gert-Jan Prins, un certain nombre d'artistes se sont interrogés sur les failles de la technologie. Ou, plus exactement, ont pris le parti d'en tirer profit, insufflant de nouvelles vies à des machines anachroniques, recyclant des matériaux périmés, extrayant du sens de dispositifs qu'on croyait réfractaires à en produire. Francisco Meirino (revêtu comme à son habitude de sa parure pseudonymique : Phroq) fait partie de ce lignage. Sur ce disque réalisé entre Lausanne et San Francisco, deuxième parution de son propre label Shiver Sounds, il explore l'esthétique de l'échec, de l'accident sonore, du résultat fortuit, du parasitage jugé nuisible jusqu'à ce qu'il forme une matière à sculpter par l'artiste. Certains titres permettent peut être de mieux cerner la problématique : "Stress Recording of Distress" regorge de subtils grésillements électroniques, socle grouillant que viennent coloniser grillons inoffensifs ou termites destructrices. "Highspeed Pulse Deterioration" utilise des éléments semblables auxquels s'ajoutent une dimension gravitationnelle et quelques signaux de détresse émis par des satellites en voie de perdition. Le fascinant "Sound Of Failure", qui pourrait être le sous-titre de l'album, offre également une variété de textures abrasives qui évoluent imperceptiblement. Ces longs morceaux de bravoure sont entrecoupés de courtes incisions où, tour à tour, lecteurs de minidiscs, de cassettes et amplis déraillent et rendent l'âme. Pas mal de casse au total et un très intéressant travail de sauvetage de ce qui ne peut apparemment plus l'être, le tout assorti d'un sens aigu du détail.
Francisco Meirino has been around for quite some time, as Phroq and has produced a bulk of releases on a variety of labels, such as Ground Fault, Banned, Even Stilte, Entr'acte, Solipsism, Gameboy, Carbon and others. Shiver Sounds is his own label. Failure is one of the things that interests him. Wether by accident - something breaks - or by his own fault, Meirino is interested in continuing the creative process. For 'Connections, Oppurtunities For Mistakes' he uses minidisc failures, the death of a PA system, electro-static background noises, broken cassette recorder and more. Phroq's music is based on the recordings of these failures, which he then puts together as music. This he does here with some refined class, I must say. It would be too easy to say that Phroq uses the idiom of microsound and that he has put in some extra loud noise elements, but it comes down to just that. Electro magnetic charges running up and down, and then a loud bang of something breaking. Some of these
sounds get looped around and further processed. Thus the failure becomes the basis of a creation. Every sound can be used in whatever way, and that's exactly Phroq's point. He does a great job here, with some highly intelligent music. Its dynamic range for one is a fine thing. Ranging from the superloud to the super quiet, makes this an intense and tense release. Clever compositions of electrical sounds made into electronic music. Music with a dramatic content. Of course there are others who worked in this field, Möslang/Guhl's cracked everyday electronic comes to mind or Joe Colley, but Phroq seems, at least to me, to take things into the world of composition, and that's a great thing. A very fine disc, the best thing I heard from him so far.