Yann Novak: Relocation.Reconstruction

Yann Novak + Marc Manning: Some Clouds

Though just in his early thirties, Novak has built up an impressive CV: the LA-based sound artist has presented installations and performances at the American Academy in Rome, Decibel Festival, Mutek Festival, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others, and operates the Dragon's Eye Recordings imprint, a label originally run by his father that Yann relaunched in 2005 and that specializes in limited edition releases by kindred sound artists (in 2009, Infrequency Editions, curated by Jamie Drouin, was integrated into Dragon's Eye's operations). Novak's latest work, which originated from sound elements used for the three installations in his 2009 solo exhibition Relocation at Lawrimore Project, finds him exploring in sonic form the myriad emotional states one experiences during the process of relocation. Having the recording appear a year after the exhibition opened afforded Novak the insight that even long after one has arrived at one's new destination the aftershocks of relocation are far from over.

After emerging from silence, Relocation.Reconstruction artfully unfurls long exhalations of low-end rumbles and grainy tones. Novak carefully modulates pitch and intensity so that the material swells to sometimes immense proportionsóto a muffled howl, almostóbut does so slowly and thus almost imperceptibly. The material assumes a gaseous form, as if what we're hearing are the vaporous emissions of industrial machinery and the flute-like overtones that gather overtop. Waves, washes, and shimmering tones of contrasting character emerge and then disappear, with each one replacing another in relay-like manner, their state of becoming and disintegration a metaphor for the melancholy feelings of discovery and loss that accompany the relocation process. The project is therefore very much in keeping with Novak's work as a whole, which focuses on transmuting personal experience into abstract compositional form. In simplest terms a forty-two-minute drone, Relocation.Reconstruction is more precisely a meticulously woven meditation of multi-layered drift.

Concurrent with the release of Relocation.Reconstruction is Some Clouds, a collaboration between Novak and Marc Manning. A thirty-two-minute, single-track piece available in a limited edition of 100 copies, the release appears on the Koyuki (light snow) imprint overseen by David Sani (shinkei) and Luigi Turra. The material is naturally in a long-form, minimalist vein, but it also sounds somewhat different from what one might expect, as Novak and Manning use multiple electric guitar improvisations in conjunction with laptop processing to generate the material. An undercurrent of low-level rumble acts as a connecting thread throughout, while blurry, silvery washes drift in, yes, cloud-like manner up above. The piece grows ghostlier, haunted even, as long plumes of muffled tones exhale with growing intensity until a state of calm settles in, with the piece's multiple layers cohering into a thick drone. Framed by percussive accents that add a gamelan-like character to the work's opening and closing sections, Some Clouds gradually disappears, growing ever quieter in its final minutes until it drifts entirely from view.

October 2010