Graham Lambkin/Taku Unami - The Whistler (2CD)
Sound artists Graham Lambkin and Taku Unami create two large works using material which they recorded together, and then which independently assembled into a single CD each, with "Whistler Vanishes in Wind" composed by Taku Unami, and "Small Mistakes in Nature" by Graham Lambkin, both fascinating collages that alternately distract and absorb the listener. Double-CD. Six-panel digipak, design by Graham Lambkin.
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1. Whistler Vanishes In Wind (48:57)
1. Small Mistakes In Nature (42:23)
(released May 31, 2017)
all material recorded in Poughkeepsie, NY, Nov 2015
Whistler Vanished in Wind assembled/mixed by Taku Unami
Small Mistakes In Nature assembled/mixed by Graham Lambkin
mastered by Taku Unami
design by Graham Lambkin
produced by Jon Abbey
Bill Meyer, Dustted
There was a time when one could resort to describing the sounds of musical instruments when discussing a Taku Unami record. Here’s proof. There was also a time, back in the Shadow Ring days, when Graham Lambkin could fairly be described as a musician, but he doesn’t seem concerned with acting like one on The Whistler. Instead the two men collected sounds around Poughkeepsie, Lambkin’s current hometown, and then each man went away and made a CD from that material. So while someone plays a clarinet and a whistle on Lambkin’s CD, which is entitled Small Mistakes in Nature, you’ll hear a lot more sounds of leaves and paper being shuffled, wood being bumped and kids coughing and calling out.
Unami constructed Whistler Vanished in Wind from the sounds of persistent non-musical activity and the environmental sounds that happen around a person. It’s quite a shock when some motorized device kicks into life and tells you haven’t heard for the past 45 minutes — a manmade noise-making object, close up and active. For the most part, Unami seems to be creating a sonic space that defines where a person might be, but you don’t hear the person. This contrasts strongly with Lambkin’s placement of people close up in the sound field. The closest is Lambkin himself; he seems to be the titular whistler, or at any rate a whistler, blithely blowing a tune through his lips or indulging in a bit of amateur throat-singing.
Aside from their shared bank of sounds, Unami and Lambkin share a disinclination to explain themselves. They put out their work, and it’s evident that they’ve spent a lot of time working on it. But they never tell you what it means, and that may be a their greatest gift. In a time when there’s no shortage of people willing to tell whole populations what to think and do, it’s a relief to encounter work that seems entirely unconcerned with telling its listeners anything.
Michele Palozzo, esoteros
Dislocating in a theoretical horizon a common and trivial action like whistling a motif, we might dare to define it as the ultimate gesture of musical reduction and abstraction. In the mind of the agent – and often in the listener’s too – there’s a much more complex set of elements related to the rhythm, instrumentation and arrangements of a song; but if we strive to disconnect these unintentional references from the present and exterior moment, what we’ll get is just a skinny and incomplete melodic line, a movement of air that, on the way from thought to action, almost completely dries out.
For me this was the occasional opportunity to talk again about the non-music periodically published on Erstwhile, constantly foraging new collaborations between artists who have made of discretion their poetic trait. Names that unavoidably come back, like a chorus of silent voices exchanging code messages, unseen in their interaction and crafting works that start out of almost nothing and then rejoin it, like parentheses in the complex discourse of the world.
The previous year, Graham Lambkin continued the ErstSolo series with Community (in conjunction with Keith Rowe’s quadruple artistic testament, The Room Extended), while the even more prolific Taku Unami appeared in duo with Devin DiSanto on the live performance recorded at the Fridman Gallery in New York in 2015. The material reworked for “The Whistler” comes from two days of field recordings in gardens, streets and parks adjacent to St. Peter’s Cemetery in Poughkeepsie, New York, as well as some recordings made by Lambkin at home with his children.
The only (un)useful listening clues are found in two short texts by the authors, one consisting of scarce, diary-like notes on the encounter between the two, the other one in the form of poetry in prose dedicated to the whistler as a foreign character, the putative cause for the failure of their experiment.
Met Taku from taxi – he arrived with a paper bag containing eight long black seed pods, a ball of twine and a sachet of tea as a house gift. I had less. […] (GL)
in the depth of the night, the whistler appeared somewhere in upstate New York. their supernatural mastery afforded them the witchcraft necessary to keep balance in the world, but had no use for spells or magic wand twirls; the whistler needed only to whistle to conjure their magic. […] (TU)
Simplifying, we could consider these extracts as a reflection of their personal angle on reality: Lambkin generally reproduces it more faithfully while preserving the concreteness and familiarity of sounds, although the effect of his collages and acoustic modifications is somewhat close to the impossible perspectives of Cubist painters; Unami maintains a bond with the Japanese aesthetic of the onkyokei by means of minimal or nil gestures, making himself continually visible and invisible in a space, be it ideal/artificial (Teatro assente with Takahiro Kawaguchi) or natural (as in this case or in Parazoan Mapping with Éric La Casa).
From similar sources, two works were created on separate CDs: in Graham’s words, his “Small Mistakes In Nature” is “full of exaggeration and cruel humor”, while in “Whistler Vanished In Wind” Taku “politely erases [both] from the landscape – as the segmented artwork suggests.
Other than this we’ll find what Lawrence English calls “relational listening”: the attempt to transmit an individual auditory experience by reconstructing it according to free associations and personal preferences. The Lambkin/Unami duo is yet another experiment played on the apparently autonomous existence of sound, even when derived from or directly attributable to an external agent; it is also a demonstration of how, starting from different theoretical elements and assumptions, one can reach such a degree of synthesis so as to put them virtually on the same level – at the same time alien and familiar to our common perception.
however, the whistler failed miserably in their performance of the much-anticipated whistling ritual, probably on account of having drank too much of that “far east burdock tea”. this blunder made for a questionable concept of balance, blurring the meanings of perfection and error. the whistler resigned to the fact that each part of nature was then at once a fusion of mistakes as well as a part of a larger misunderstanding