After running steadily for eight years, the Brisbane-based Fabrique event series curated by composer Lawrence English finalized with a final performance that was followed by the distribution of free copies of this compilation, which features 18 diverse international sound artists (almost all solo musicians) who had played at a past Fabrique show. The album is a polychromatic assortment of experimental knob-twiddlers and waveform reinterpreters who are at the top of their game in their respective places of origin. Luckily, what could have been a hodgepodge of disparate aesthetics actually comes off sounding like a global all-play, an assemblage of various proponents of new noise whose intertriginous proximity to one another makes for a sublimated friction that is deeply satisfying and ever intriguing.
The Fabrique disc then functions more as a DJ mix from showrunner English, an abstract sound technician in his own right who nevertheless appears nowhere on the album, than a collection of choice cuts from top-notch experimental talent. Many of the original pieces included here sound slightly castrated alone by themselves, flailing off or petering out before given their just desserts (Pimmon’s otherwise brilliant “Chirippk”, a textural contrast between lo-fi glitchy contact mic rumblings and haunting atmospheric squeaks). The longest track, London turntablist Janek Schaefer’s droning meditation piece “Field of the Missed”, is a mere seven minutes, a marked exercise in brevity for many in this lot, particularly with regards to the live improvisatory sounds likely heard at Fabrique events.
Hence, only two of the 18 works featured here are live captures from Fabrique shows (pieces by Keith Fullerton Whitman and Scanner). Performances of this sort tend to bleed individual parts into one another, sculpting an inimitable and irreproducible longform sonic artwork that is, hopefully, worth the world travel undertaken by its creators and listeners. It’d be impossible to ably encapsulate the profound temporality of a single performance on a single compilation disc without severely abridging or amputating the space for the other 17 musicians.
As such, only Schaefer’s olio of ambient processed sound and field recordings allows the overtones to ring and roam free. The denouement is a crucial aspect of these performances. As the final notes are allowed to linger on for what seems like an eternity, the hushed audience gasps in and nary a pin drop is heard as the sound melts away, the transience of the experience escaping forever as the participants mourn in quietude the passing of something wholly unique.
At the other end of the ephemeral spectrum, Berlin’s Robert Henke, known to most as the one of the masterminds behind Monolake and the co-inventor of Ableton Live software, chimes in with approximately one minute of exploding pockets of noise. His “Homage” bubbles over like the mixing board caught fire and started boiling. The brief affair gives way to the power electronics of Japan’s KK Null, who somewhat expectantly offers the harshest track on the album. This excursion into the upper decibels of recorded sound is then immediately lulled by a brilliant nursery loop by Brisbane artist Leighton Craig. It’s unclear whether there was any kind of planning in these dynamic shifts, but it is clever sequencing nonetheless.
Fourcolor’s “Familiar” is anything but, a standout piece of paradisiacal soft synths and breathy, aerated vocals whose notes and instrumentation vibe and syncopate like a combination of free and cool jazz in an ambient setting. And for every other blissful tonality, like the oceanic compass of Seaworthy’s “Points North and East” and the morphologic collaboration between the clangorous and the narcotic on DJ Olive Meets I/03’s “Then We Exhaled”, there’s some serious dark side stuff too. Burlington, Vermont’s Greg Davis offers “True Magic”, which is like Enochian energy music, reverberating magickal bells down a hollowed-out infinite tunnel. Camilla Hannan’s “Forest (Edit)”, which immediately follows it, takes a similar pathway to sonic hellscapes, paving her passage with wind and echo, eventually reducing it all to pure hiss.
Then, there are the originals, like former Squirrel Bait and Gastr Del Sol member David Grubbs, who kicks off the compilation with “Blessed are the Task Makers”, a guitar-based piece with hovering gnats and snarled noise. He sets his attack to violent and selectly chooses his negative space to emphasize. In all, it’s like a Kawabata Makoto solo with much of the meat and muscle ripped out, leaving just the raw nerve.
The mix gets perhaps progressively less immediate after this, but no less essential. While the sounds aren’t perhaps as surprising as its artists would hope them to be, they are nevertheless the kind of things you couldn’t find in any other type of setting besides those like Fabrique’s. As a pastiche of the sounds of the past eight years, Fabrique makes you wish that you were there, and makes you long for what you might have missed.