Ulex Xane | Stances/Semblance
Cipher Productions (CD)
Stances/Semblance (edition of 300) is both a forty-year retrospective of musique concrète and electroacoustic works of Ülex Xane (1975-2015) and my personal introduction to his work. Though I’ve been listening as long as he’s been making my tastes have shifted and evolved over time, as has his sound evidently. The Australian composer is known mostly for his work under the power electronics moniker of Streicher. But to me he was the founder of the brilliantly evocative and always wildly edgy Extreme imprint, for which I am indebted for initially introducing me to Fetisch Park and Pablo’s Eye back in the day. He also released some of the best from John Duncan, Jim O’Rourke, Paul Schütze and Christoph Heeman, to name a few. From the Kraftwerkian bot cover art you may hardly know what to expect, and it dives deep into delicate noise atmospherics that are arresting and peculiar.
As opposed to his far more outrageous and gregarious work of yore, these works are intensely bosom and introverted by comparison for the most part. The Inarticulate is a chamber of echo-y whispers, the vocal treatments like micro-percussion with an open mic static dragging about. Suddenly, midway, sloshing sounds and discordance enters the otherwise meditative state, the disruption only lasts less than ten seconds, but comes back a little later to taunt. The seventeen minute piece (for Walter Marchetti) is his most current here (2015) and is indicative of walking through a long dark tunnel with a voice whispering from ear to ear. The collection is set up to go backwards in time, as Subsistence (2014) and Paroxysms Of Disappearance (2010) hold the same resistant cadence of quietude, disruption and distance. The latter coming off like an avant jazz track of broken horns and sudden action.
Space, Time and the Categories (Cinq études de bruits factice) – Part 1 – Identity : Precession of Simulacra (2009) starts with a Buddhist-like chime, but instantly transmits you to the cross-section of forest or jungle under heavy surveillance. This is the first of five parts. There’s something lurid out there, just lurking in the shadows. By using tape effects, rewinds and hiss we are in the middle of nowhere as flares are launched which continue into Part 2 – Difference : White Ghost. Chimes flare and are cut-up and obfuscated. Sound effects bloom and retreat in the following segments of this unique work (an album within an album really) until we land on the most minimal (redacted?) piece in the array, Part 5 – Universality : Les Champs magnétiques. Xane makes minor adjustments of moderated quiet space seem commonplace, but these micro-electronics are anything but.
In 1995’s Noise Panel #43 (triptych) a rolling thunder of noise envelops your sound space, and only increases in voluminous bearing, but it’s over in a minute! A toilet flush and its resultant trickling (human and plumbing) offers an obscure intro to The Disinherited Mind. Made for Piero Manzoni, this seems at the outset like an rightful nod to Dada. The splish-splash and other foghorn samples are friendly alarm calls, though they emphasize different tones, almost as if an orchestra’s brass section is just getting warmed up. It’s a powerful, disconcerting track composed in 1984 and recorded in Prahran and various undisclosed locations. At first you are on a typical seaport, and on a dime you are out at high sea alongside a gigantic Navy vessel. And in the end the engines sputter away with surreal gassy blurts.
In conclusion the oldest piece here (1975) combines taped excerpts of s/m mishegas – and the gurgles, giggles and gasps on Farewell to Matters of Principle are hard to take at first. Though it’s hard to turn a deaf ear on this, like a voyeur at work. There’s something awkwardly maniacal in this otherwise ‘no pain no gain’ sentiment hinging on something altogether demented, squeaks and self-control aside. Of course intermittently there’s someones mum baking an apple pie amidst the yelps of pleasure and pain. I’m reminded of being engaged with the slap-happy nature of my childhood Saturday morning cartoons back in the 70’s. An odd fusion of samples ensues that will leave you scratching your head to this distorted radio play of cinematic snippets.