2008
Reviews

La Ciutat Ets Tu
At Every Point
Tomasz Krakowiak | La Ciutat Ets Tu

Mike Hansen | At Every Point

Etude Records • www.etuderecords.com

Though one of them was born in Poland, both of these musicians now call Toronto their home. To listen to the first record, I had to clear my mind. It wasn't just a cup of java that I needed — I was searching for a secluded spot. I loaded the CD into my portable player and headed for the basement. After the kids were put to sleep was the best time to attempt any decent analysis of the music at hand.

What exactly has percussionist (multi instrumentalist really — as he's played laptop, junk, even piano) Tomasz Krakowiak cooked up this time around? Without a doubt, the sounds on La Ciutat Ets Tu are alien, even eerie. Not once do I get the impression that they're cold or in any way removed from the human element.

Tomasz Krakowiak claims that his tools on the record were percussion and microphone placements. That's all. So how do you explain the vibrating sounds on "Aigua per A"? Did Krakowiak place old screws and nails on top of an old window air-conditioning unit and let the microphones pick up gyrations? Is that a fan that I'm hearing or are my ears being tricked into a false sense of reality? "Drgacze" features a light tickling of cymbals and possibly chains that are rattled in a subtly pleasing way, while "Sink" is a mystery piece altogether. Is the composer rubbing against a metal object or is he scraping nails on a chalkboard?

The whole lot ends on a high note with "Diners per N". It's full of the gentle trickling of water on a steel pan or perhaps fingers tapped in succession on the cymbals or perhaps something else altogether. The record's greatest merit is the guesswork that goes into the listening session. Would one even hazard to guess that this is the work of a percussionist or was it really made by somebody who understands the aesthetic qualities of his surroundings to the fullest?

The listener is left alone with no clues as to the source of the sounds at hand. Audio soundtrack to a movie that has yet to be produced, La Ciutat Ets Tu is perfectly satisfying and conducive to praise every minute of its duration.

Typically Mike Hansen can be found playing abandoned, roughed-up turntables that most likely have been salvaged from street curbs, public libraries or garage sales. At Every Point however sees him concentrate on the digital medium.

Sure, he still plays prepared record players as he calls them (basically modified turntables with needles placed in awkward positions or playing at the wrong speed or perhaps playing with a loose belt) but he's also playing guitar, percussion and filtering the sounds through his computer. As Andrew Johnson points out in the album's liner notes, "The sounds are pulled out of time, looped, repeated, manipulated and placed in relation to one another. The qualities of the sound are allowed to determine the direction of the piece rather than the act of listening, anticipating and responding in the moment." He even calls Hansen's work "urban everyday music" as it's deeply rooted in an urban landscape.

No matter what you call Hansen's work or whether you enjoy the sound of scratched-up records manipulated on a dilapidated turntable, the record holds a mysterious world ready to be unwrapped. I love the way he employs simple crackles of an old slab of vinyl and makes a sequenced chain of events. Often, the background vinyl hiss becomes the foreground and shapes seem to build themselves into the form of a melody. On "Once Held a Lighter High in the Sky" he filters a chain of unmatched sounds and puts them into a lovely plunderphonic collage. From the sound of bells, through to records played at wrong speeds along with some mad scratching, Hansen progresses to tell a story of mayhem. The record ends with "An Example of What I Meant" where an aural landscape pierced with bells and constant dirt on vinyl surface makes for a soothing and mysteriously alluring piece. I'm predicting Hansen's best work is still yet to come.

Tom Sekowski – March 2008 – (first published in a different form by Gaz-Eta)

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Tom Sekowski
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The Live Music Report
toms@thelivemusicreport.com
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