Ash 4.3 - Al Jabr

Released: 1999

CD, 53:29:19, 7 tracks.
Buy in the TouchShop.

01. Evan Parker - London's Overthrow
02. Tactile - Pandemonium
03. Jim O'Rourke - Booming Bass
04. Simon Fisher Turner - Parabolas
05. Mechos - Raxor
06. Lawrence Casserley - 'K'h'mkߣ#ñ
07. T:un[k] Systems - Synaptic Radio

Disinformation releases clearly aspire, like Dr. Who's TARDIS, to be something bigger on the inside than they are on the outside - loaded with hints, clues and allusions designed to tempt the listener into investigating further. AL-JABR, Disinformation's latest exercise in weapons-grade electronica, is certainly no exception. Its predecessor, ANTIPHONY (Ash # 3.4), presented the remix process as a parody of the techniques of traditional church music, while AL-JABR takes its central analogy from an underground publication which circulated in medieval Europe. The 9th Century astronomer, geographer and mathematician ABU JA'FAR MUHAMMAD IBN MUSA introduced European accountants to both 'Arabic' (ie Sanskrit) numerals, but also the system of symbolic mathematical reduction whose name corrupts into English from its Arabic form; equations as fractures, solutions as surgery, remixes as reunifications.

For those not familiar with the Disinformation brand name, this project consists of DJing, publishing and live performance with recordings of unusual electromagnetic (ie radio) noise. On AL-JABR itself, rather than creating antiphonal responses to the original source material, the contributors 'equate' the raw material with their own idiosyncratic input; Lawrence Casserley transforms the rhythmic intricacies of how long data noise into a symphony of crushed and shattered slates; Evan Parker's wailing saxophone complements the pulsating drones of the city's power distribution networks, transforming the original 'National Grid', which was recorded live at the Museum of Installation, into 'London's Overthrow', after the apocalyptic visions of the Victorian mystic and arsonist Jonathan Martin.

The noise group Tactile take ultralongwave sub-bass radio noise generated by the TIG welders in sculpture/sound group Oubliette's metal workshop, and recasts them as the ambience of 'Pandemonium' - the infernal underground city engraved by Jonathan Martin's slightly saner brother John. Jim O'Rourke adds uniquely American humour and a rock 'n' roll analogue of National Grid. Simon Fisher Turner twists broadcast data noise into gorgeous rolling melodies. T:un[k] Systems' track 'Synaptic Radio' pitches VLF band radio recordings of interference radiated by electrical storms against pristine lab pure sine waves - a vision of electrical-engineering-as-fine-art created by Disinformation for events at MOI and the South London Gallery. 'Raxor' by Mechos isolates individual lightning strikes and inserts them in a lattice of clicks and low frequency drones, whose deceptive simplicity belies the subtly disorientating effects of their unfolding, twisting rhythms.

AL-JABR includes a text by the 17th Century watchmaker Robert Hooke, which suggests that noise has potential use as a diagnostic and can aid scientific investigative methods. If this CD has value beyond its specialised entertainment value, then it also shows that noise, as an artform, can demonstrate real conceptual and technical ingenuity, and can not only express visceral, cathartic intensity (ecstasy/ugliness/beauty/rage) but also explore complex and emotive anthropological and intellectual themes.

the science of restoring what is missing and of equating like with like/the surgical treatment of fractures/ the bringing together of elements/the part of mathematics which investigates relations and properties of structures by means of general symbols.

Reviews:

gg (USA net):

With R&D, STARGATE, GHOST SHELLS, and R&D2, Joe Banks (Disinformation) tuned his receivers and antennae to reveal inaudible radio frequencies, natural statics, and geomagnetic disturbances. His recordings opened ears and minds to the fascinating array of infrasonic events constantly occurring just above/below our limited range of hearing. The sprawling double-disc ANTIPHONY saw a stellar assortment of electronic musicians remixing Disinformation material, frequently to superb effect.

AL-JABR effectively inherits ANTIPHONY's mantle but, by inviting such unlikely candidates as erstwhile pop-star Simon Fisher Turner and eminent mimprovisational saxophonist Evan Parker to interpret R&D and R&D2, the project surpasses ANTIPHONY in breadth and scale. Turner seeks a pop backbone in Disinformation's raw-matter but never finds it, despite dance innuendoes and ambient twiddlings. Mechos mimics the clicking Geiger counter signatures of decaying isotopes. Tactile's swelling sub-bass can swallow you when experienced through a powerful subwoofer. Beware! 'Booming Bass', Jim O'Rourke's meticulous collage of electronic trickery, contains everything but bass booming or otherwise. Lawrence Casserley and T:un[k] Systems respectively compress and dilate Disinformation's atmospheric afterimages. Parker's 13-minute 'London's Overthrow' finds the legend blowing a labyrinthine pattern of tangled, circular tones over the throbbing discharge of alternating electrical currents. Unresolved and unpredictable, it is a brilliant exposition of the controlled universal chaos into which Banks's recordings tap.

Art Zero (France):

Des le debut de l'ecoute de cet album version 1.0 d'une nouvelle forme des projets Disinformation, on sent que quelque chose se passe. Evan Parker attaque seul au saxo, affrontant un mur de samples et de bruits perdus (suivi de Jim O'Rourke, Tactile, Simon Fisher Turner et Lawrence Casserley). Comme Ground Zero l'a fait dans son Consume (þuvre avec laquelle cet album est definitivement tres comparable, comportant en un seul album l'þuvre originale, les remixes et les remixes des remixes!), la montee en puissance progressive et cathartique des aleas samples ou accidentellement captes se fait tres efficace. Le son se developpe, prend son temps, s'etire implacable. Depassant le cadre de simple concept plutot bien pense qu'est celui des series Disinformation recreer des realites a partir de ce qui manque ˜, la musique s'impose d'elle-meme comme une copulation reussie entre un jazz free et une base
electromagnetique qui lui sert de plancher mouvant et jamais rassurant. Musique des fractures, des cassements des elements, c'est avant tout une beaute froide et unique, lisse et interieurement fractee. Une imposition violente d'une vision musicale sans compromis, une ligne de fuite ultime. [Jerome Schmidt]

Vanguard Online (UK net):

This is a bit more like it. Described as 'the science of restoring what is missing' this is probably a bit of a grower and certainly has the beats and noise missing in much of Hazard's North.

It's also quite bizarre, lots of jumpy, frenetic noise beefed up by a static-fuelled backing and electronica with tinny saxophone refrains. Data noise, city power network droning and the pounding bass-line of radio noise are remixed, reworked and rechannelled into bites of music which are perversely very parallel. Interference via electronical storms are given a drum and bass-esque veneer and from all of this digital, cosmic sounding noise, come melodies and symphonies for a musically - bored pre-millenium generation.

Available to buy now, this is apparently 'a vision of electrical-engineering-as-fine-art' and some of this has been created specifically for galleries. Some of it sounds like your CD player is about to burst, some of it sounds like a badly tuned radio, but it more or less works all the same. [Jill Theobald]

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