It’s around this time of year that I get the chance to catch up and post about a few more obscure end of year picks.
Last year I chose the intriguing Hannah Peel album which featured a story about a woman from Barnsley who dreamed of space exploration. The album showed how to combine electronics and a brass band without it sounding forced or unnatural. Another selection from last year was Visible Cloaks who combined electronics with a Japanese aesthetic, which in retrospect acted as a gateway for some of my favourite records that I’d heard in 2018.
Eli Keszler is a New York-based sound artist (bear with me here, it isn’t as dry as it sounds). He has had work featured in installations in the UK at the V&A amongst other places. Stadium is his ninth album and is percussion based. It is mostly a skittering affair, a meeting of Elvin Jones and Mark Guiliana with old school drum and bass. Most tracks feature Eli working around his kit with some instrumental colour, such as piano notes on Lotus Awnings or vibraphone on Which Swarms Around It.
Stadium was inspired by Keszler interactions with buildings during his installation work, such as the Boston City Hall boiler room, pachinko gaming bars in Tokyo and the Le Corbusier designed Carpenter Centre at Harvard. The album is full of varying resonances whether with echoing chambers or metal on metal.
He discovered some redundant speakers built into the fabric of the Harvard building, connected them up and created a 15 channel stereo system. This marked a transition in Keszler’s approach from introducing his work into a building to actually using the internal architecture. You can read more Keszler’s approach in this interview at the self-titled website.
The album is quite beautiful and benefits from being played quietly as background ambient music or being turned up and enjoyed as a more visceral piece of percussive music.
Keszler’s approach appears to be based on a traditional drum kit using triggers for the non-drumkit sounds. It does tie in nicely with much of the post-Blackstar music that I’ve been enjoying and one could imagine David Bowie getting his groove on to this.
Stadium is available from Bandcamp here.
The silver mesh cover photograph for this blog is of a screen using cellophane that Anni Albers created for a trade union space in Bernau to act as an acoustic reflecting material. It seemed apposite to reference Albers given that the methods she used for creating the order of her weaving ties in with Keszler’s approach plus she is the subject of an exhibition at the Tate Modern.
Albers was a pioneer, one of the few female Masters to be formally appointed in the short life of the Bauhaus art school in 1931. The school was closed a year later under pressure from the Nazis and she and her husband, Albert fled to the USA to work at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
She went on to become one of the most prominent textile artists in the world, living until the ripe old age of 94.
Albers work shows a sense of order. In some ways, she was the anti-Pollock. She made a little go along way and wasn’t in a hurry – weaving was a slow laborious business. This piece from 1928 entitled Black White Yellow shows her inventiveness. The threads used were those of the colours in the title, yet by working them together she created shades of grey and yellow from this three colour palette.
The exhibition is well worth a visit if you are in London, showing how Albers work developed from her time at the Bauhaus, absorbing influences from South America and the techniques used for creating her work. She used the weaving as wall hangings, room dividers or even as memorial pieces for the Jewish Museum in New York. The piece below was completed between 1966 and 1967, with six hangings each marking one million Jews killed during the Holocaust. Albers was from a Jewish family but had been christened a protestant, referring to herself as Jewish only in the “Hitler sense”.
Albers wrote in her essay “The Pliable Plane”:
The essentially structural principles that relate to the work of building and weaving could form the basis of a new understanding between the architect and the inventive weaver.
The same could be said about Keszler and the relationship of his music with buildings.
The Albers exhibition is running until 27 January.