srijeda, 18. rujna 2013.

Ennio Mazzon - Xuan (2013)


Staklena i metalna tehnologija prirodnog zvukovnog krzna.


As our understanding of the natural world grows in complexity, so too do the tools and techniques we devise to further our collective knowledge. Practitioners of increasingly specialised disciplines of knowing, we harvest data from innumerable networked sources and feed them through farms of optimised compute cycles. Nature becomes more and more systematic, and our systems become more and more alive. A leaf becomes a dataset, a molecular mosaic, a genetic blueprint. Scientific methods of information abstraction form templates for the organisation of society, the production of culture, and the management of the environment. We slide unawares between biological and technological metaphors; seldom do we concern ourselves with the question of precisely who is mimicking who. We trace the developments of ant colonies and financial markets with equal curiosity and precision. Somewhere in the world, across a matter of minutes and seconds, a video of a small furry creature is going viral.
Seldom do we concern ourselves with the question of who is mimicking who. Yet at times Ennio Mazzon’s new album “Xuan” seems calculated to raise precisely this concern, the single long track blending environmental sounds with the chirp and holler of machines in such a way as to blur the distinction between the natural and the artificial. Both field recordings and machine-generated noises are made to exhibit the same characteristics of complexity and contingency, compelling a kind of listening that perceives both as instances of the same phenomenon, as part of the same environment. In such a scenario, one would expect the introduction of tonal harmonies to constitute a retreat to safer, less interesting musical territory, yet in “Xuan” this does not appear to be the case: the ambient chords that appear mid-way through the track instead seem to offer a kind of self-reflexive commentary on the ongoing categorical confusion, suggesting anxiety and unease while stopping short of presenting the convergence of nature and artifice in unambiguously negative terms.
Art’s ability to help us think differently about the world in which we live and grapple with its challenges in imaginative ways is often cited as an attribute that distinguishes it from the simple pleasure and emotional affect of entertainment. To be sure, “Xuan” can be both pleasing and emotionally affective, yet to me it would seem to offer more than this: I hear in the work a sophisticated engagement with the question of how our understanding of the relations between nature and machines is changing, undertaken via entirely aesthetic means (by which I mean it is all there in what is heard). The growing interest in field recordings in the context of computer-based music production points clearly in such a direction, yet I am aware of very few artists who have begun to explicitly consider this issue, yet alone in such a compelling manner, though of course there are many other perfectly valid uses of nature recordings being fruitfully explored. Even if the most the record could hope to achieve in this regard is to make audible the growing similarity between two representations that used to be so unalike, to make such an idea make a little more sense is by no means a small achievement.
I may well be overstating the work’s conceptual basis here, though Mazzon’s previous work, including collaborations as one half of Zbeen and his curatorship of Ripples Recordings, has already established him as an artist thinking seriously about the conceptual possibilities of sound. At any rate, “Xuan” is essential listening, not only for dedicated fans of experimental music and sound art, but for anyone interested in what art has to contribute to the ongoing venture of learning how to live in a complex and constantly changing world. - Nathan Thomas for Fluid Radio

Ennio Mazzon‘s magnificent Xuan requires multiple spins in order to reveal its secrets.  Even then, the album remains dense and oblique, like a mysterious woman in black, her face obscured by a wide-brimmed hat, leaning against a wall with a cool filtered cigarette in her white-gloved hand.  Every ounce of the observer screams “danger!”, but her allure is too powerful to resist.
As half of Zbeen and the owner of the Ripples label, Mazzon has released many electronic explorations over the past few years, ranging from the slightly sedate to the extremely agitated.  As a 42-minute track, Xuan is a risk that pays off.  In direct opposition to Stasis (recorded for Entr’acte), Xuan is active from the start and demonstrates incredible internal motion.  The artist’s familiar pulses and beeps are joined by warning tones as early as 1:10, and as the piece progresses, Mazzon produces an impressive variety of tones and alarms.  At times, one can almost imagine a bass track emerging, but then such guidelines evaporate in an ether of drone and industrial clang.  Xuan sounds like computers and factories flirting before going to war. For the cinematically minded, imagine R2-D2 dropping in on the climax of Terminator 2.
Mazzon has always been experimental-minded, and math and physics are frequently mentioned in his compositional bios.  His choices seem calculated, tabulated, examined for efficacy.  The laboratory is once again implied; in certain segments, beginning with 3:57-5:39, Mazzon incorporates sounds that are similar to those of washing or burning.  Nothing remains static in Xuan; it’s as if he is determined to push the boundaries of how many things can happen at once, like a juggler insisting on one more ball.  At 6:11, avian cooing is followed by footsteps, distant bells, and nearby chimes; Mazzon is not content to produce a work that is strictly electronic.  Such tiny additions help Xuan to operate as the aural equivalent of a “find the hidden object” puzzle.  Even if one were to be given a list of featured elements, one would be hard-pressed to spot them all.  Instead, the imagination starts to run wild: that sounds like a truck, but is that a volcano?
Best of all, the track keeps developing.  No one-trick pony, Xuan is an investigation of sound and sonic properties that invites listeners to contemplate the hearing sense.  Drip, meow, kettle, block, glass, a cornucopia of sources settling gradually into a mattress of drone.  In the 27th minute, one drone recedes while another rises, a soldier taking up the flag of a fallen comrade.  By the end, the listener has experienced multiple red zone infractions.  As the piece fades into its final silence, one becomes aware of a new element: restraint.  After multiple plays, one realizes that the restraint has been there all along, a sign that the scientist knows what he is doing.  - Richard Allen

Azure Allochiria (2010)

  "Azure Allochiria" (from the greek words "allo" and "chira" meaning "other" and "hand" respectively) is Ennio Mazzon's first solely electronic audio work, after several ones based on field recordings that have been released on physical or digital format, on labels like Time Theory, Impulsive Habitat, Q-tone, Audiotalaia, Resting Bell and his own Ripples label over the course of the last three years. This, being the latest music product of the Italian sound artist, is an electronic environment filled with slivers of sounds, formless at first sight but very cohesive when the reflections and rebounds of the sonic entities unveil the richness and dimension of the sonic whole. The five pieces that compose the unusually narcotic but nevertheless mind-glowing sonic setting, employ a plenty of unnoticeable complex patterns through the entire technically permitted frequency range, which, if detected by chance while listening, will eventually loose distinguishability in the cerebral confusion caused by the highly pitched semitonic dispersion throughout the whole album.

Anthony D'Amico | Foxy Digitalis | April 2011
    I was pretty certain that the world already had more than enough bleeping and blooping laptop improvisers, but Mazzon has managed to surprise me by bringing something quite new to the form. The innovation in this case is that Ennio artfully employs the entire available frequency spectrum in these five pieces, which has a very unusual and noticeable effect: the air in the room feels weirdly charged whenever this album is on. Also, some of the sounds feel like they are actually occupying physical space in the air (seriously - I'm not crazy). The experience is probably closely akin to watching a film with an exceedingly expensive surround sound system. I like it - it gives these pieces a lot of presence and immediacy. Also, I suspect that some of the frequencies are probably making my neighbors' cats freak out and careen around their apartment, which is an added amusement. Notably, this is not the sort of thing that Mazzon normally does, as he is primarily known for his work with decontextualized field recordings. However, I still hear quite a few traces of environmental recordings in these five pieces, though they are largely digitized into oblivion. Perhaps this is only a departure because it is improvised and more aggressively manipulated than usual - I definitely hear things that sound like birds, water, wind chimes, and ambient forest sounds that have been warped with a ring modulator and layered a bit. Mazzon has a definite knack for assembling these collages though, as he makes very skilled use of both space and texture. I am impressed. Azure Allochiria is both a compelling experiment and a complicated and dynamic work.Frans de Waard | Vital Weekly | issue 776 | April 2011
    Best known, perhaps, from his work released on his own Ripples Recordings, Ennio Mazzon also released music on Time Theory, Impulsive Habitat, Q-tone, Audiotalaia and Resting Bell. Up until now his music was based on field recordings, but 'Azure Allochiria' (the Greek words 'allo' and 'chira' meaning 'other' and 'hand') is his first work that deals entirely with electronic sound. It's not easy to say where these sounds come from; at times I thought they were alarm clocks, warning sounds or randomly spliced together sine waves. Mazzon puts these together in a somewhat chaotic pattern, of which one is not always sure it's a pattern, or a random clattering of sounds. But this chaos somehow makes sense. It's the density of it all that makes it quite nice. A vibrant mass of crawling insects, moving and working. Obscured processings take place - in the sounds rather than the insects of course. Maybe some of the material is a bit long, but perhaps it's also this longitude that makes this into quite a nice work. The best work so far I heard from him.Mark Walters | Savaran Music and Sound | March 2011
    It's good to be back reviewing after four months at the coalface producing tracks for a couple of releases due out this Spring. Apologies to people waiting for reviews which have been delayed by my lengthy creative process.
    Anyway, less about me and more about our next review artist, Ennio Mazzon, from Treviso in Italy. Ennio is a field recordist and sound artist with previous releases on the Impulsive Habitat, Q-tone, Audiotalaia, Resting Bell, Time Theory and October Man Recordings labels. He also runs his own label, Ripples Recordings, which concentrates on electroacoustic releases.
    Earlier works typically explore the fusion of field recorded sounds from the natural environment with processed electronic sound to create a suffused alternative sonic landscape inhabited by waterborne transformations and concrete sounds which "transform the natural silence".
    Unlike his earlier work "Azure Allochiria" is a wholly electronic experiment borne from laptop improvisations and recording spanning just over a year. Given the length of time to stitch this work together you might expect a formless mass of unrelated material in the final work, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the five pieces making up the album do in fact work cohesively, particularly after a couple of listenings.
    Ennio's purpose throughout the album was to explore the full range of tones and textures available in the electronic dimension. At times this album feels like you are partaking in an extended audiological ear test with frequencies from micro to macrosound level being gently pushed into your brain which swims in a sine wave sea. A trembling rivulet transforms into chirping pulses, mechanical valves hissing, a trilling analogue switchboard, droid chatter in a sci-fi scrapyard or muffled movements in the room next door - you can make up multiple scenes in the mind from this material and that is the joy of the whole work really.
    Perfectly suited to a live sound art environment, art installation or being played at high volume in your own space this is an intriguing and multi-layered work that explores some stimulating sonic territory.
Nils Quak | Resonant Strata | February 2011
    Ennio Mazzon is a talented guy. Not only does he run the great Ripples Recordings label but also releases a large variety of experimental music ranging from drones and field recordings to freeform experiments with prepared guitars or laptop improvisation. His latest work "Azure Allochiria" is a testament of his laptop work, which focuses on highly abstract textures and complex sonic explorations.
    "Azure Allochiria" offers a wide range of sounds. Starting with jittery sine wave rhythms to clicky fragments moving through the stereo field, while brooding drones simmer in the background. This is plain computer music. And it's absolutely fantastic at being just that. Although being quite busy at times, the tracks carry a soothing calmness. It's like standing in the middle of a large computer facility, the whirring noises, the little beeps blend with the ambience so easily and quickly, one almost forgets that the music is still on. A beautiful and mesmerizing album the perfectly complements Mazzon's other works.
Justin Snow | Anti-Gravity Bunny | February 2011
    In addition to running Ripples Recordings, Ennio Mazzon is an Italy based sound sculptor who usually works with electro-acoustics & field recordings. His new record on Triple Bath, however, is his first that's strictly electronic, and the first of his that I've heard. So no comparisons, just me raving about how he doesn't need any analog acoustic sounds because Azure Allochiria is totally fucking awesome.
    This is some minimal stuff but it has a hundred and one layers. Pretty quiet, delicately textured like digital lace. If you play this at a normal volume, (1) you'll miss out on 80% of it because it flies under the radar and (2) you'll forget you ever put on a record and you'll just think there's an EBS test running somewhere you can't find. So play this fucker loud and you'll be in for a treat, with all of the vertigo high pitches, stuttering anti-patterns, and garbled dog whistles.
    There's a magic beauty to Allochiria that transports you to a midnight garden. Lots of insect sounds, chirping, static hammering, clicking, everything twinkling & glitching with a Tron-like blue glow surrounding it. It makes me think of a much more controlled version of the sound speakers/amps make when plugging them in. An elaborate ambient alien Morse code that seeps through The Matrix. Seemingly cold & unwelcoming to the uninitiated, but in reality it's a warm embrace of next-level electro-harmony.
    Not knowing what sort of field recordings Mazzon has done in the past, it's still pretty obvious that that's where he's coming from. So much of this record sounds like it could be from the analog world, melting icicles & trickling water, buzzing cicadas, throaty bird songs, yet all blatantly electronic. But regardless, THIS IS IT. Azure Allochiria is an hour long gorgeous minimal texture fest and it's all I need. Way to fucking go.

In An Undertone At A Loose End (2009)


 2013 Zbeen, Eigen [Ripples]
2012 Zbeen, Stasis [Entr'acte/Ripples]
2012 Zbeen, K-Frame [Ripples]

Field Recordings:

2009-2011 Archive

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