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July 15, 2008

Mimi - liner notes

Some thoughts on Mimi

Of the recordable mediums, there's something fascinating about vinyl. Aside from the nostalgic and aesthetic elements attached to vinyl, the physicality of the medium itself - its shape and size, fragility, and operation lend to its curiosity and mystique as a medium of sound reproduction. It is a compositional medium probably more commonly associated with commercial music, though was explored in an experimental fashion earlier in the 20th Century by artists such as John Cage (Imaginary Landscape #1) and Pierre Schaefer (see Musique Concrete.) The medium as art object was practically
exhausted over the course of the last century until there was nothing left but a hiss and a crackle in its last decade.

This is where my interest in the medium becomes apparent.

The hiss and crackle of vinyl is what defines it as a medium – they are the soundmarks of its fragility and apparent failure. Since 2005 I've been engaged in what Kim Cascone defines as the aesthetics of failure - the inherent glitches and faults of a given technology which establish its identity. As digital recording lossy took dominance over the analog format at the close of the last century, artists such as Cascone started using the latest
technologies on both a microscopic and manipulative level, exposing the apparent 'weaknesses' of the medium and utilising them as a compositional device. Whilst this trend has continued up to the present day, some artists went in the other direction, recalling superseded technologies as their instrument of choice. In terms of vinyl, this is no more apparent than in the work of Philip Jeck, whose focus on the hiss and crackle of vinyl has not only characterised Jeck's approach to composition, but has opened a new realm of possibilities in working with the medium of vinyl. In May 2008, I witnessed a live performance by Jeck as he built up layer upon layer of crackle fused with an occasional flutter of piano and chunk of guitar riffage, accumulating and expertly positioning sounds to form rich textures of sound which could be augmented and stripped away in a seamless fashion. Not your average DJ.

The tracks which make up Mimi are my first attempts at working with vinyl as a compositional medium, and are very obviously influenced by the work of Jeck. I recorded the tracks over a weekend in July 2008 using a Sound Research 1600
turntable and a custom built Max/MSP patch capable of processing the incoming signal from the turntable. A biquad filter and comb filter are used to shape and manipulate the original sounds of the vinyl record, a tap delay is used in consort with these filters to create layers and textures of sound. If there is an underlying theme to Mimi, it is associated with the beauty of small objects and their internal operation, their fragility and their breakdown and decay. Mimi is dedicated to Debra Carthie, a close friend who passed away in the week preceding these recordings.

Tristan Louth-Robins
July 2008

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