Robert Crouch - Sublunar

CD and download - 4 tracks

Release date: 19th May 2017

Written, recorded and performed by Robert Crouch

Mastered by Lawrence English @ 158
Artwork & Photography: Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

1. Descension
2. Brick by Brick
3. Listen to the sound of the earth turning
4. Coda (Sailing Stones)

Presented live in Los Angeles. Source material originally developed as part of mas gestos y mas caras, a collaborative performance with Rafa Esparza and Yann Novak, presented at the Hammer Museum on July 8, 2016.

Robert Crouch is an artist and curator whose work encompasses sound, performance, and technology. As an artist, he locates his work with the intersection of post-phenomenological listening practices, conceptual sound art, and contemporary electronic music. At its core, his work can be understood as a conversation between tonality, context, history and subjectivities. Similarly, Crouch’s curatorial work focuses on the overlapping disciplines of sound, technology, movement, and performance.

Sublunar continues Crouch’s inquiry into the complex relationships between sound, context, and meaning, first proposed in his 2016 release, A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth (Line). The four tracks which comprise Sublunar were composed using field recordings from and audio files originally created for mas gestos y mas caras, a collaborative performance with artists Rafa Esparza and Yann Novak. mas gestos y mas caras was a durational performance incorporating sound, breathing, and a series of repetitive actions and gestures, choreographed within an architectural installation of adobe bricks fabricated and designed by Esparza.

Sonically, Sublunar is a radical departure from the originating performance, yet these tracks remain tethered, literally and aesthetically, to the processes and context of their construction: Esparza’s labored breathing, cautious footsteps, a soft cascade of water, dust, soil. The title itself, Sublunar, reinforces an attachment to the Earth and the physical world, and intentionally resists metaphysical interpretation or decontextualization.

It is precisely through this tethering that Crouch seeks to open up a diversity of possible approaches to the work, rather than confine our reading to a primarily or exclusively musical text. The first track, Descension, opens with sounds of breathing, muted movements, and environmental noises, and serves as an acknowledgement of our collective understanding of sound, of these specific sounds, as physical phenomenon. By extension we are allowed to consider this particular organization of sound itself as a kind of sculpture, architecture, and choreography. The body becomes the primary oscillator and architect, delineating boundaries and defining the work as a space within which we might inhabit.

Reviews:

Bad Press (Canada):

Another new release from the innovative Touch label, this one lands Friday. In addition to issuing a number of fine recordings, Touch sponsors a mentorship program that helps artists with grant applications, business counseling and more. It’s an impressive outfit.

Robert Crouch is a solid addition to the stable. His latest, Sublunar was recorded live in Los Angeles. It’s a subtle, nuanced electronic work that demands – and promptly rewards – a close listen.

Crouch pulled its source material from “mas gestos y mas caras,” a July 2016 collaboration with Rafa Esparza and Yann Novak. (Google tells me that translates to “More gestures and more faces.”)

His process is part of the story. Crouch’s interests lie in “the complex relationships between sound, context and meaning” according to a write-up accompanying the new disc. By lifting pieces of a previous recording and breathing new life into them, he’s done exactly what he set out to do.

The album’s first piece “Descension,” begins appropriately enough with a recording of Esparza breathing. It’s not immediately recognizable, in part because it’s set within an intricate mix of ambient sounds. Two minutes in, it’s clear we’re in for an intense, detailed listen.

But it’s a quiet intensity. The most striking thing about the album is its ability to go in multiple directions and at the same time maintain an even keel. It surprises without jarring. It is intricate and at the same time expertly polished.

Touch has produced 500 CD copies of Sublunar. It will also be available as a download. [Kevin Press]

Chain D.L.K. (USA):

“Sublunar” has its origins in a collaborative live performance mixing sound, technology and movement, but the original sonic material has been reworked and repurposed into something which is ultimately much more static. The result is a collection of drones, found hums and atmospheres that almost extol the virtues of non-movement.

Opening track “Descension” is warm, with a reassuringly cosy hum. The breathing patterns continue into second track “Brick By Brick” but the tone becomes coldier, emptier, more windswept.

The misleadingly titled “Listen to the sound of the earth turning” is even more lightweight, a repeated single robotic note triggering in an evolving rhythm, an exercise in how a sound might be alarming and soporific at the same time. Halfway through, the repeating note fades and warmer hum-chords similar to the opening track return. To complete the arrangement, “Coda (Sailing Stones)” blows cold again, with sporadic noises like water droplets falling in an underground cave, and the slow arrival of a faintly synth-organ-like melodic loop as a crescendo of sorts.

Despite its complex and multidisciplinary origins, “Sublunar” as an audio product is stark and simple. It’s so mellow that it could easily find itself on a sleep playlist, and might serve well as an environmental setting, but it lacks distinctive features or ideas that would make it shine in its own right



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Robert Crouch - Sublunar


MP3 sample

Track 1:  Sublunar (extract)



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