Perambulating the Bounds

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Nautical Almanac This Friday

Nautical Almanac is back in Nashville this Friday, at 310 Chestnut Street. They’re known for circuit-bending, but one of the clips off their new album (Cover the Earth, has more acoustic sounds: loose strung guitars, and percussion, with Carly singing nonsense words. I think I read somewhere that they were getting away from the circuit bending. This track still has the sculptural quality I hear in their music, chunks of sound put together in a spatial way. The other cuts you could download were more like what I expect, globs of sound getting squeezed and pushed around. But it’s not like they’re going to come in and play the numbers off the new album anyway. The web page gives a credit to a third player, Max Eisenberg in addition to Twig Harper and Carly Ptak. Don’t know if it’s going to be all three of them at the show. But they are always worth hearing. They have a clarity I like. I don’t use the phrase experimental music much because that suggests someone discovering new sounds or ways of making music, and most stuff, no matter how far outside commercial mainstream, correlates to some way of putting sounds together that’s been done somewhere in the last 30 years. But Nautical Almanac feels like an experiment where they work out a logic of the sounds in a overcharged way. The quality is pretty obvious in their circuit bending, which has an obviously experimental character when they try to figure out what happens from rewiring a toy or a machine.


  • I haven't heard the music you're writing about but I like the way you describe it.

    By Anonymous FeatherSue Wisdombox, at 2:03 PM  

  • Thanks. Here's something I wrote a while back on this group that describes it a bit more - not that more is better, who knows. "Twig Harper and Carly Ptak, proprietors of the Tarantula Hill performance and recording complex in Baltimore, create soundscapes of the electronic world as a place of instant obsolescence, where audio material breaks down almost as soon as it’s issued and joins a sonic landscape of decay. The duo creates many of their sounds by rewiring toys and gadgets, opening up the cases and making new connections within the circuitry to find unexpected noises. Sounds from games and snippets of old recordings and voices find their way into the mix, as well as hisses, buzz, static, crashes, and sinewy microtonal melodies. The music succeeds not because of the sound sources, but on the basis of its sculptural qualities--the choices in placing sound events in relationship to each other, and in balancing sounds with different characteristics. Sometimes the sound comes at you in waves, sometimes in more jagged fragments. Often the elements fall into clear voices, like an accidental counterpoint."

    By Blogger David Maddox, at 1:49 PM  

  • This will be my review of the show at 310 Chestnut, well-hidden where maybe no one will ever see it. Nautical Almanac did have an extra person, Max Eisenberg on this show. And it was more acoustic, less circuit bending. A lot of the time Carly played violin – plucked, bowed, and scraped – and a home-made string instrument. Twig played bass a bunch (not exclusively). Max had some rewired toys, but also a drum kit he played standing up. He also vocalized a bunch, but that was pretty distorted.

    The music had a lumbering motion, like the rhythm of someone walking through deep snow, progressing by dropping heavy loads of sound at steady, seemingly regular intervals. The fact Twig spent so much time on bass gave it a metal feel. Sometimes he would play a fragment of a riff, which gave your mind enough hint of a rock bass line so you could fill in the gaps, like the eye imputing the parts of the sketch not fully drawn. Other times it wasn’t even a riff or the start of a riff, but just wooly, scratchy noise that had the low timbre and was delivered in the right pulses or quantities to serve the function of a bass line, to tell the ear to hear it as a bas line. Which made parts of this performance seem more like songs, not abstract sound sculptures. Although it was still that too.

    They’ve been playing together a long time, so it isn’t a surprise that it hangs together well. The sound densities are handled so there’s a consistency as it changes from one level or timbre collection to another. Things don’t dropout, and there’s very little of the “what is going to happen next” pauses.

    By Blogger David Maddox, at 10:21 PM  

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