Today’s piece of freely-available music comes via Yugen Art, an online repository of sound art that in some respects resembles a netlabel but is more aloof, publishing things online with an absolute minimum of fuss or extraneous (or even pertinent) information. i’ve written about works from the Yugen Art archive on a number of previous occasions (it includes such figures as Kenneth Kirschner, Francisco López and JLIAT), and today i want to explore The World Is Made Of Words by Northern Ireland-born, Japan-based musician Darren McClure.
i think the aspect i find most engrossing is its elusiveness. It doesn’t seem like a piece that should have that as a possibility, as its soundworld consists of just three things: a chordal element that hovers while gently pivoting around its immediate environment, a bass element that never moves above unfathomable depths, and a small-scale manifestation of quicksilver glitch. Yet despite the certainty of these three basic component parts, The World Is Made Of Words is music rooted in ambiguity.
It’s also music that, though it displays certain hallmarks of ambient, isn’t a conventional steady state, ending up somewhere different (though not necessarily far) from where it begins. For the first half of the piece it’s the chordal element that predominates. It floats in the centre of our perception, one moment seemingly quite clear, the next more vague, never static but subject to tilts and ripples running through its timbre. The glitch element skitters over its surface, occasionally accumulating such that the chord seems to have become dirtied, whereupon it periodically switches abruptly back into clarity. At times the chord moves beyond its initial confines but always returns back; the glitching also develops slightly, from random electrified tendrils into a gentle rhythmic pulse. All the while there’s an implied question about the connection between these two elements, particularly as at times (such as ~3:46) a chordal shift seems to trigger a corresponding change in the glitch’s movement. Yet less than a minute after this the glitch seems to be going its own way, independent of the chordal core.
It’s not until 3½ minutes in that the bass starts to make its presence felt. Initially it’s little more than a distant rumble, though gradually its weight increases such that it causes huge throbbing surges. It too suggests a relationship with the hovering chords, though not only does that come into question after a few minutes, but there’s also the possibility that the glitch and the bass are connected, like a tiny fish cleaving to a huge whale.
The midpoint of The World Is Made Of Words is where everything changes. The glitch, despite its ephemeral nature, briefly seems to be almost pulling apart the established soundworld. It hangs together, but the chord becomes unrecognisable, and before long the bass swamps everything. There’s detectable glitch movement semi-submerged in reverberation, as if the intensity of the waves of bass had the qualities of a liquid. As the music continues we become immersed ever deeper in this abyssal sound trench, a place where all other sounds speak as little more than traces of something tapping, until all that remains are the nebulous modulations of the multitude of bass pitches vibrating and jarring against each other, creating large swells and dark flutterings. Only towards the work’s close does it occasionally suggest the coherence of a drone, but it remains amorphous to the very end, finally receding into blackness.
Released in 2014, The World Is Made Of Words is available as a free download from Yugen Art.