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Robert Curgenven
Oltre (Line) CD

I don’t think I’d ever heard of Robert Curgenven prior to this CD. Though he’s been active Australia’s sound art scene for a number of years now and performed across Europe, he’s only released a couple of CDrs before Oltre, which is his first proper release — and it’s a fascinating introduction to his work. The basic source material here is the so-called Transparence resonating dubplate, which Curgenven produced while an Artist in Residence at the O’Aroteca in Milan. For the dubplate, Cugenven recorded feedback drones at low volume in the gallery space at O’Aroteca. This meant that when he subsequently used the dubplate in a series of performances on a two-month tour of Europe, it was played back at high volume, so that the sound of the playback — the stylus and mechanism of the turntable itself — is always in evidence. With each performance, the dubplate wore down and decayed, as the stylus cut into the fragile vinyl surface. The five pieces on Oltre are artifacts from these performances. In them, Curgenven layers the shuddering hum and soft crackle of the dubplate with guitar feedback, the sound of ventilator fans, and some rather extraordinary location recordings of insects, thunderstorms, and the like. The music is quiet, full of slight textural shifts, emphasizing the interplay between the drone of the fans and the drone of the dubplate, the chirping of insects and the crackle of vinyl. One could almost describe it as meditative, were it not for the persistent sense of unease (perhaps from the vague menace of feedback) that underlies all five pieces, but particularly the fourth, “Largo Capriccioso.” All in all a very, very nice release.

-Susanna Bolle


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