Francisco Meirino - Anthems For Unsuccessful Winners
THE PROCESS OF SIGNIFICANCE
4 X CD Boxset / digital download
Released by Misanthropic Agenda, MAR055, March 2021
Music, photos, drawings, collages and layout by Francisco Meirino
Produced and curated by Gerritt Wittmer
Liner notes by Jim Haynes
Live pictures by Michel Pennec, Fabrice Scheider, Pierre Acobas
Features remastered versions of long out of print Francisco Meirino albums:
All packaged in 4 separate digipacks, inside bespoke box. Includes 24 pages booklet with liner notes by Jim Haynes.
Digital only : 25.- euros
« This extended study of the grandeur of failure and its significance is the culmination of 12 years worth of meticulous audio work, remastered in all its brilliant detail, presented together in one lavishly designed box set.
An absolute must for fans of masterfully crafted audio design,Musique Concrète, modern composition, and more, the box set—packaged in four separate digipaks and housed in a bespoke box— includes long out of print albums “Anthems For Unsuccessful Winners,”“Recordings Of Voltage Errors, Magnetic Fields, On-Site Testimonies & Tape Tension,”“Notebook (techniques of self-destruction)” and “The Ruins."And also, a 24 page booklet features liner notes written by Jim Haynes. » Label statement.
R E V I E W S
Last week’s post on Chris Carter noted our current love of electronic music that explores an ambivalent view of technology. Spanish-born sound artist Francisco Meirino is a striking example of someone who produces exactly that kind of work. The 46-year-old was born the same year Carter formed Throbbing Gristle with Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fanni Tutti and Peter Christopherson.
Meirino’s website describes his work as an exploration of “the tension between programmable material and the potential for its failure.” Since launching his career in 1994, he has been “primarily interested in the idea of recording what is not supposed to be: gear failures, the death of PA systems, magnetic fields and electro-static noises and in how he can use them and hear them radically out of context.”
Misanthropic Agenda has released a four-disc set of out-of-print Meirino titles: Anthems For Unsuccessful Winners, Recordings Of Voltage Errors, Magnetic Fields, On-Site Testimonies & Tape Tension, Notebook (techniques of self-destruction) and The Ruins. The physical release comes with a 24-page booklet and liner notes penned by Jim Haynes.
The Process Of Significance runs just shy of three hours. It is an immersive listening experience, not just because of its length. Meirino builds little worlds of audio art for us to surround ourselves with. The work is decorative, even when it’s challenging. (Which it is, more often than not.) It won’t engage you with pleasantries. But it absolutely will capture your imagination.
For all their abrasiveness, the 26 pieces in this collection come from a place we all recognize. Many of us live in that place, in fact. As carefully composed and precisely executed as they are, these works sound very much like the world around us. It bangs and clicks. It fills our heads with white noise at sometimes unpleasant frequencies. Meirino’s genius is his ability to deliver us a stylized interpretation of what urban life – sometimes rural life, too – sounds like.
To describe his work as odd or peculiar is to miss the point entirely. It is the familiarity of Meirino’s art that makes this collection so striking. Even when specific sounds are unrecognizable, their collective presentation has a deep ring of truth to it.
Like it or not, this is what we sound like.
For some, artistic creation is a pure vessel, nothing but an expressive medium, while for others it’s a space removed from reality within which to cancel oneself, yielding to the illusion (and secret seduction) of a bodily non-existence and of transmutation into a flow of pure and intangible physical energies. Electronic instruments and materials are the ones which come closest to this utopia, the paradigm through which to simulate the “disappearance” of the artist and performer behind an architecture of cold but pulsating timbres, the result of the occult action conducted by a veritable deus ex machina.
Staging a hypothetical ‘process of significance’ presupposes starting from its negation, thus going back to the primary cells of what we believe to have complete sense – although in itself all music, metaphors aside, has indeed no capacity to convey meanings. Yet it’s precisely this direct touch with the raw electronic material that makes so compelling the production of Spain’s Francisco Meirino (based in Lausanne, Switzerland), newly collected in this box set: a twelve-year “study of the grandeur of failure” unfolded in four pivotal albums, the hermetic and uncompromising genealogy of an instinctual and infinitely multiform noise music. Not simply a retrospective reissue, but a necessary recapitulation of the vast analog arsenal around which a whole research – both individual and shared – has branched out, related to the serendipity of the defective, deviant, non-compliant sonic output.
The attempt at being myself was a total disaster, I tried to apply the usual technique of self-esteem but apparently the lack of good sense didn’t help. Once again I was awarded for being a lame being. The current state of my disappointed hope was as clear as blue water, thick blood, empty dirt. The first attempt was the last too, too much work, too [many] words to write, the hand is slower than the heart. My pleasure was simply [found] in the lack of understanding, in the lack of processing ideas […]
(Extract from the diaries printed in the release booklet)
The recontextualization of these four works (of which the first two were remastered in 2020) offers an exhaustive and morbidly fascinating catalog of the spurious practices acquired and over time mastered by Meirino: a corpus capable of revealing how even the most drastic syntactic deconstruction holds in itself the nature of a new possible language, liberated from the stale interrelations imposed by musical canons to give vent, instead, to a laboratory of formal solutions ranging from the most abrasive drone maximalism to the undercurrent hum of almost inaudible frequencies.
What varies in the course of Meirino’s disorderly creative non sequitur are the degrees of separation from the aforesaid matter, with a pinnacle of concreteness in the self-explanatory Recordings of Voltage Errors, Magnetic Fields, On-Site Testimonies & Tape Tension (2010), still crossed by scanty naturalistic simulacra in the form of samplings, to finally reach the radical abstraction of The Ruins (2018), the sketching of an electroacoustic and digital waste land of no return, where only the mechanical ticking of a clock takes us back to the dramatic and ineluctable wear of real time.
Two extremes of absolute vividness which, however, cannot overshadow the equally intoxicating symphonies of chance and chaos represented by Anthems for Unsuccessful Winners (2010) and Notebook (Techniques of Self-Destruction) (2014): a strenuous delving into a wilderness of static signals, glitches, feedbacks and short-circuited tapes, assemblages and free digressions apparently inspired by the wonder of an ever-new rediscovery of the fundamental phonetics that distinguish the analog gear – a thrill pervading anyone who triggers the electromorphous dialogue between two amplified jacks for the first time.
Occasionally violently thunderous, elsewhere surgical and interstitial, the quadrilogy named The Process of Significance is the necessary starting (and never arriving) point for the revelation of a grey eminence of the current panorama of electronic experimentation: with an even greater consciousness than his peers, Francisco Meirino gives voice to the false contacts and the consumed bodies of machines with the rigorous enthusiasm of an enlightened conductor, the nerve center from which the most disparate sources of sonic alterity radiate.
Quite where we are here I’m not entirely sure. I don’t really follow a lot of noise or musique concrète or, like, whatever this is. But that this is a 4CD boxset suggests that either Francisco Meirino‘s of some standing or the label owe him a favour for a hit or something. I certainly hope it is for being of some standing, because this is fine stuff — fine in the sense of being enjoyable and fine in the sense of having an exceptional amount of detail.
The difficulty with pinning The Process Of Significance down is that there’s a fair amount here that sits in a few places. There’s a degree of orthodox noise elements — pops and crackles and hissing static. But that in turn is absolutely lacking the blunt and blurry edges of standard noise anti-fidelity. It’s not quite sound art, in that there’s a sense of distinctly musical narrative — repetition and scarce melodic ideas.
It’s quite close to that sort of Wire-y found sound experimentalism except, again, too much detail and care. There’s a lot that’s super abrasive, but always with the kind of forensic mic detail that you don’t expect from aggressive music — what is distorted sounds more like swarming insects than flat-battery Walkmans.
There’s four CDs here, so this may represent a narrative of Meirino’s work but I can’t quite discern it – it’s more like there’s a thematic difference between each album, but there’s not a great deal to separate it in terms of quality over time. That is, this is all mature work, and Meirino’s voice and style is clear througout. “Climax” from CD4 (The Ruins) is a gorgeous and carefully shifting work of jack lead hums marshalled subtly into something just on the perimeter of musicality, rhythms — what is repetitious and looping doesn’t reveal itself as such — and a drone which stabilises the whole thing into musical form only graces the piece towards the end. Which is not entirely unlike the pattern of CD1’s (Anthems For Unsuccessful Winners) opener, “Winning Is Overrated”, all dentist drills ceding to carefully peri-musical ambience.
Tasteful is, I suspect, the term that I’m circling around. “You Know Nothing”, from CD2 (Recordings Of Voltage Errors), features a kind of chopped-up and fucked-about-with piano sample, possibly emulating decay and that sort of thing. The melodic element could’ve been trite and it’s not seemingly central; but the important thing, to my ears, is the way Meirino telegraphs the sonic decay in a crisp, sharp way. So easy to subordinate samples with obvious decay / distortion, but there’s a lot of care taken to make it sound like it’s breaking.
Difficult to describe all of this, of course; perhaps the most striking thing is that elements which are noises — and there’s a lot of them, fucked cables and electric arcs, etc — are never quite allowed to get away with being empty signifiers. He’s got really sharp ears, is my point.
The blurb talks about needing decent speakers and, while obviously the What Hi-fi world of audiophilia wankers are bloated pricks, this is a real boon for decent gear. I recently got myself some pretty substantial headphones and I have to say this is an absolute treat. Like I can’t remember hearing something that renders so much of its difficult, bright, popping source material with so much clarity while not dwelling in the quieter end of things. Maybe that’s another important point: there isn’t that sound art sense of smugness about well-rendered source material — there’s a subtle but distinct presence of careful sonic narrative. It’s not always obviously “musical” in a lot of senses, but there’s enough rhythm and withheld melodic elements that it certainly feels like a sharp labour.
Now I should warn that this isn’t always a “pleasant” set — a lot of the source material is definitely into the realm of amplified bee swarms and helicopter pile-ups. This is the sort of awkward sound world that is familiar to noise, but also the sort of fidelity and attention to detail that’s largely absent from that world. At sufficient volume the neighbours will fucking hate it, I’m sure, (or at least be convinced that an electrical fire is imminent). But principally this is well stimmy, exceptionally well recorded and sits along side the kind of sumptuous joy of a Bernard Parmegiani or Valerio Tricoli (I’m going to infer that Italian surnames are the best for this kind of thing). Hard recommend.