John Wall/Alex Rodgers
Belgium £13 (including postage)
Europe £15 (including postage)
Rest of world £17 (including postage)
Edition of 300 copies
and John Wall.
This work was compiled from improvisations, independently-
recorded fragments and pre-
written texts over the specified
Computer-generated sounds, severe editing, arrangement and composition
Voice and computer-generated sounds
John Wall/Alex Rodgers (E234)
In fairness, I should say Wall and Rodgers’ as the latter is responsible not
only for the texts herein but also a good portion of the ‘computer generated sounds’, but to the extent that the work occupies at least an adjacent soundworld to those which Wall has produced since 1995’s Alterstill, it’s recognisably his product.
Like many of his previous offerings,
Work 2011–2014 is short but it’s a brevity born of concision and severe economy, packed with an extraordinarily dense assemblage of slivers of information, needle-sharp, scything through the dark, Beckettian text often spoken in a slurred, bitter manner.
I have this image of a razor-edged knife weaving through large hunks of meat. Tiny knives though, so even even there are thousands of them, they have very
little mass, leaving a ton of ‘air’ in which the events can take place. It’s very strange and pretty much unique to Wall’s sound. Wall is legendary for taking massive amounts of time to work on minute slices of sound; I take it this is
a result and it's a bracing one.
Rodgers’ words command equal weight, however. He uses software to alter his voice constantly, enough that it rarely sounds very much the same on several levels, including apparent distance (blurred, far away and indistinct to mic-bumping closeness), pitch and other,
more unusual variations including
a disturbing, moist kind of lisp (“Were
I was going”). The text is gutter-level
angry, occasionally imagistic and not above (I suspect) combining words for the sheer deliciousness of their sound like “marzipan supremacists” or the concluding phrase, “angular cluster”. There’s an extract printed inside the sleeve, only a sentence of which, as
near as I can determine, is used in the recording.
Wall’s sounds are always overtly electronic, no attempt at masking.
How he manages to render them utterly
different from your normal computer-induced activity, I’ve no idea but to
these ears, they sound absolutely fresh, sparkling in an alien way. I don’t recall him doing it in earlier work but on occasion, he allows a small dollop of repetition to creep in, for at most several seconds and often less than that, perhaps offering a momentary foothold for the listener, only to quickly snatch
it away. Rodgers uses iteration more straight-forwardly in the subsection, “the same”, with fine bitterness. Refreshingly,
there’s no arc. It’s episodic but with each chapter bearing similar heft, moving
the listener from room to room in a very large, troubled building, no entrance or exit. A tremendous, sinewy-tough piece
of work, one of my favourite speech/ music recordings in a long time, maybe ever.
Brian Olewnick at Just Outside
Amazement is a word that seems fitting for John Wall’s collaborations with Alex Rodgers, the latest of which, Work 2011–2014, is now out on Entr’acte. A single
piece lasting 27 minutes, it establishes
a profoundly intimate sensibility at the outset, Rodgers’ words practically being spoken directly into one’s mind. The
context Wall fashions for them is typically restrained, soft and low but full of impact, his electronic sounds projected into high and low bandwidths more than anywhere else. When he’s manipulating materials like this, the results are simply beautiful, but when he pushes them outward, lets them grow, sharpens their edges, it’s just heart-stopping. The nature of the inter-
action between Wall and Rodgers, as it was in their previous collaboration Work 2006–2011 (which, having been out of print for some years, has happily now been re-released) is deeply enigmatic; Rodgers is often low in the mix, audible but not intelligible, and when he is suddenly exposed, his stream of consciousness — kind of like Tourette poetry—feels urgent, insistent, all the more so for being constantly tinged with fiery emotional subtext. It’s a paradox
that continues even when the text is delivered by an entirely synthetic voice, its vicious expletive-strewn phrases
like robotic piranha in a viscous sonic ooze. The diverse means of expression demonstrated here are disconcertingly
imaginative, almost intimidating so;
Wall has an innate sense of shaping music that’s simultaneously abstract
yet capable of sledgehammer-like emotive blows. The closing gambit,
in which Rodgers voice somehow becomes embedded within Wall’s materials, is utterly remarkable.
Simon Cummings at 5:4
This latest collaboration by electronic composer John Wall and his old sparring partner, poet Alex Rodgers, gets off to
a terrific start. We seem to be inside
Rodgers’s throat as he gargles out
a couple of vowels and launches an incantation: “I will fawn over you/ Gibbering scarecrow of some bulk/ Smelling like a midden”. Rodgers has
a voice rarely heard: working class, pissed off and oozing character. The way he manhandles a sentence is utterly compelling, and you just want to hear
a load more. He may be depressed
but his love for these words is apparent. He rolls around a phrase like “angular cluster”, examining it from different,
well, angles, getting steadily angrier,
and the contrast with the surgical strike
of Wall’s sounds is exhilarating.
Clive Bell in The Wire