Jeremy Bible & Jason Henry: Vector

Jeremy Bible & Jason Henry: Shpwrck

Jeremy Bible & Jason Henry: Marker

Vector, Shpwrck, and Marker are naturally complementary recordings from Ohio-based sound artists Jeremy Bible and Jason Henry that fuse found, acoustic, and electronic sounds into abstract material of pointedly evocative design. The Experimedia releases are distinctive on a visual level too, with the releases' discs tucked away in tall, three-panel packages whose photographic imagery parallels the duo's sonic approach by magnifying natural imagery to degrees of near-abstraction (leaves on Vector, charred wood on Shpwrck); though more conventional in dimensional terms, Marker's cover imagery is similar in tone to the Experimedia packages. The concept even extends to the releases' allusive and distancing song titles (e.g., “Alska,” “Rtn,” “Vctr,” "Glacr").

Four of Vector's six pieces are in the twelve-to-fifteen-minute range, so the material has ample opportunity to develop. Apparently, acoustic sounds such as piano, cello and voices comprise part of Vector's sonic palette but, true to genre form, the processing manipulations are so thorough they lessen the recognizability of said elements. The gloomy dreamscape “Alska” wends through Philip Jeck territory when sounds of gouged vinyl and industrial noise loop incessantly alongside phantom winds and sheets of distorted noise. It's followed by “Fndt,” an industrial mass of metallic, static-soaked rumble that writhes and heaves for a queasy fifteen minutes, and “Flck2,” where waves crash through layers of granular grit prior to the emergence of aviary chatter, traffic sounds, and percussive knocking. Multi-tiered waves crest and fall throughout “Rtn,” after which Vector grows increasingly nightmarish as it works through the brief “Vctr” and convulsive machine noise of “Lmp.”

Shpwrck is not only broader in its stylistic range but, in some respects, the easier listen of the two. Though three pieces still exceed the ten-minute mark, half are under eight minutes and, while there's no diminishment of abstract character, the overall sound design is sometimes less dense and therefore easier on the ears. The framing pieces, “Shpwrck1” and “Shpwrck2,” suggest that the recording would make a natural companion to Mesoscaphe, the recent work by Mathieu Ruhlmann and Celer whose nautical focus is the thirty-day 1969 Gulf Stream voyage of the Ben Franklin submarine. One would expect Shpwrck to sound darker by comparison, given the violent fate intimated by the title, but in fact only parts of it are bleak in spirit. The two “Shpwrck” tracks are, in fact, rather peaceful settings of muffled tonal drift, with rustling percussive clatter a constant companion to foghorn-like tones that pierce the shadowy haze. Blustery trumpet smears in “Dstromsh” recall Toshinori Kondo's playing on Paul Schutze + Phantom City's Site Anubis, and the track itself is an apocalyptic nightscape that would sound perfectly at home on Schutze's recording. Elsewhere, crowd chatter humanizes the gloomscapes “Yetisltk” and “Yetiatk” while “Sphotnblp,” “Luupn,” and “Cldstrct” concentrate on tinkling bell tones, reverb-heavy piano, and curdling string atmospheres respectively.

Marker is very much sonically in keeping with the other two, despite the fact that it's issued on Gruenrekorder, a label more known for its field recordings output than experimental electronic music-making. Much like Vector, the hour-long Marker features four extended settings (fourteen minutes apiece) and a shorter outro. As before, field elements (e.g., children's voices, radio talk show conversations) and natural sounds (e.g., cymbal percussion) swim in thick electronic baths amidst alien noises of unidentifiable character. The release rarely resembles music of any conventional kind and is clearly geared towards the listener weaned on heavily abstracted soundscaping. The industrial soundscaping of “Ast” unfolds in a queasy ebb-and-flow that feels akin to a turbulent dream-state, after which phantoms drift through an industrial wasteland in “Fragmnt.” The recording's finest moment arrives when Bible and Henry navigate vast expanses of frozen tundra during the vaporous epic “Glacr,” a slowly heaving mass of ambient cloud formations whose immensity overshadows all that's come before. The tranquil closer “Indnt” is almost as appealing, despite being the complete opposite of “Glacr” in so many ways. Even so, ending the album with gentle guitar shadings and restrained atmospheric textures (including a re-appearance of the earlier talk show snippets) is a smart move on the creators' part given that it's the last impression the listener takes away when the recording's done. File all three releases under “immersive headphones listening.”

October 2008