Robert Curgenven
CD + digital download
LINE/12K  |  LINE_042  |  2010
Photo: Patrick Boland, Cockatoo Island, Sydney, 2008

Dedicated to Rayner Wentworth Mitchell 

Digital at Bandcamp (bundled with WM25 + bonus track)

CD sold out at source
available from Forced Exposure (USA) here

“Transparence” resonating dubplate | turntable | field recordings | guitar feedback | ventilator/fan
Mixed in Berlin, Amsterdam, Milan, Ionian Sea and London,  April-July 2009
Mastered by Rashad Becker, Berlin, 7 July 2009

The "Transparence" dubplate, developed at O ' in Milan, Italy, works within the physical limitations of the vinyl medium, employing the object as sound source and also sound medium, to become an instrument in its own right. Using the non-linear acoustics of the gallery at O’, the dubplate was recorded, and later cut to disc in Berlin, at very low volume. This ephemeral audio signal becomes present during playback only at high volume, which subsequently produces, by design, a unique physical response from the room, air and amplification - creating deep undertones and blossoming overtones via these manifold resonances; simultaneously, the action of the stylus gently abraids the soft vinyl surface, causing the dubplate’s sound to gradually disappear and evolve, successively losing higher frequencies whilst acquiring new artefacts and crackle. OLTRE documents this degradation and transformation over two months of live performances. The integrated system of subsonic feedback from ventilators, acoustically gated binaural microphones, modal micro-variations in guitar feedback, field-recordings from across remote areas of Australia and the live, physical interplay of the turntable, dubplate and stylus, combine to create a field which moves beyond the original recordings and their individual spaces.

1. Aria 1, 18th movement, live at Ionian University, Corfu, Greece, 6 May 2009
2. Aria 1 & 2, 12th movement, live at Klub Kamieniolomy, Warszawa, Poland, 20 March 2009
3. Aria 1, 13th movement, live at NRD, Torun, Poland, 25 March 2009
4. Aria 2, 13th movement, live at NRD, Torun, Poland, 25 March 2009, additional guitar recorded by Jörg Maria Zeger, Berlin, Germany, 11 September 2001 
5. Aria 1, 17th movement, live at Codalunga, Vittoria Veneto, Italy, 26 April 2009


The best 12k/LINE release in ages – dark, Lynchian eroded tape-loops and analogue menace. ESSENTIAL PURCHASE!
The starting point for composer Robert Curgenven’s work is his Transparence dubplate, developed as part of the O’A.I.R. Artist In Residence program at O’Artoteca, Milan. The dubplate was created from feedback recordings that were run through the O’ gallery space, resulting in a drone signal capturing the subtle resonances of the room. Curgenven uses the dubplate as an instrument in its own right, played back into another space as a means of interacting the original Transparence signal with the acoustics of its new playback venue. Further complicating matters, Curgenven’s dubplate is of course in a constant state of decay, in that every time he plays the signal the stylus erodes at the vinyl surface. On this album you can hear the composer at work, utilising the Transparence dubplate with all its all its booming bass and heavy crackle. You are in effect listening to the sounds of the turntable itself, with the faintest of drone sounds suggesting the original recording before the grooves had been so heavily abraded. The pieces here document two months of touring and capture Curgenven’s sound in various stages of its decomposition. Additional layers of site-specific feedback help keep the recordings fresh and interesting from location to location, and the themes of decline and disintegration operate within the same sort of poetic parameters as William Basinski. Highly recommended. (boomkat.com)

On this album Robert Curgenven brings together some of the recurring preoccupations of experimental music of the past 20-odd years : signal versus noise; the materiality of sound; the acousitics of particular spaces; playback devices as instruments; the integration of music and environmental sounds. Behind the music—to these ears at any rate—lurk such presences as Alvin Lucier, King Tubby, Murray Schafer, Elaine Radigue and turntablism. At the heart of Oltre is a custom dubplate produced by Curgenven and containing a low-volume signal.
The album documents five live playback situations with the dubplate. With the volume cranked up, the turntable stylus picks up its own signal from the speakers and starts to fee back. The colour and pitch of the feedback are shaped by the acoustics of the space on each occassion and the positioning of the deck relative to the speakers. Curgenven adds live EQ to the warm, spreading tones produced in this way and combines them with more layers; guitar feedback, subsonic sound from an electrical fan, the signal from gated binaural mics dunked in drinking glasses, and field recordings made in the Australian outback (where Curgenven lived for a number of years). Each of the performances builds on the core dubplate sound to produce distinct realisations of the piece. The dubplate, meanwhile, degenerates with each successive play, losing high frequencies and gaining crunchiness. All the careful attention to ‘process’ wouldn’t matter as all, of course, if the end result weren’t so compelling. But the dovetaiiing of harmonics and the beautiful layering of the sounds yeild an incredibly rich textural experience. The huge low end of “Gran Coda ANdante” underscores the ‘dub’ in ‘dubplate’, the ambiguous harmonies of “Largo Capriccioso” never quite settle, and the relationship between feedback, vinyl crackle and sounds such as cicadas in the bush takes many imaginative shapes.
Throughout the album Curgenven keeps an alert eye on the interaction between space, performer and technology—the effort pays off for performer and listener alike.(The Wire, UK)

Earlier this year (and I’m speaking 2009 still), I saw an excellent performance by Robert Curgenven, of whom I reviewed two CDRs before (see Vital Weekly 612 and 634). On a table he set up a whole bunch of CD players, a record player with a record he has cut for the occasion, a ventilator/fan and a microphone that is set to ‘almost’ feedback. The concert impressed me more than his two releases so far, but maybe I am not to understand his music on disc better. I can now more see what’s going on. In the concert situation he is using field recordings, recorded onto CDRs, which he mixes together with the harmonics created by the ventilator and feedback resulting from picking that signal up. on his ‘Oltre’ CD, his first real CD, he has five pieces which we recorded earlier this year, except ‘Largo Capriccioso’ which was already captured in 2001. That seemed a bit odd, but if you hear this CD then it makes perfect sense. The pieces from this year are all in a particular ‘soft’ style: lots of crackles, birds and other environmental sounds with gently sustaining waves of feedback like sound. The 2001 piece is an altogether more dark and by far more drone based piece of music. I think the order of the CD should have been different, and also shorter. One of the first three seems to be superfluous, and with the fourth being somewhere earlier, say on position three or two out of four, this would have made the release much stronger, I think. But still its a pretty damn fine release. No laptop, hardly any electronics, but a warm sound of crispy field recordings and gentle feedback sounds (Vital Weekly, NL)

LINE CDs always come with a concept—such is the nature of the label. Robert Curgenven’s concept is pleasingly transparent and simple and features an extremely satisfying selection of sonic works that are absolutely fascinating, and very listenable indeed. Using a dubplate cut at a low volume as a sound source along with numerous other interesting objects and artefacts, the recordings gently degrade over time—such is the nature of the dubplate—giving rise to some wonderfully atmospheric and unpredictable elements to the pieces. The crackles and pops noticeably increase over time, while the base recordings and drones form a perfect balance to this with their beautiful and dramatic tones. Added field recordings give everything a nice harmony creating a lovely combination of the mechanical and the natural and whilst the overall feel could possibly be considered a-tonal, there’s a much more delicate and gentle feel here than that would imply. There are, of course, moments and passages where the tone darkens considerably and thesem again, form a lovely equilibrium with the quieter parts. As the pieces move forward you can feel, as well as hear, the tangible changes in tone and texture and that’s why, for me, it works so nicely. Ultimately this is a CD to go back to time and time again and I have to say I’m loving every minute of it. For the more minimally minded of you (and I’d say particularly fans of White_Line_ this is a real treat. (Smallfish, UK)

you can feel the infernal reserve of power, which is never fully used. It is worth listening to, if not for musical reasons, then for cognitive ones. - Bartek Chaci?ski, High Low (Wyz Nisz)

Using only a “Transparence” dubplate (that acts as a sound source as well as medium), turntable, field recordings (gathered from remote areas of Australia), guitar feedback, and ventilator (no computer or electronics, in other words), Robert Curgenven presents five long-form, explorative settings that prove mesmerizing in their degree of detail. That the material was recorded over a two-month period in spring of 2009 would normally be a detail of minor importance; in this case, it’s significant because the recordings document the gradual degradation and transformation of the dubplate over the span of the performances: as the stylus repeatedly abraids the vinyl surface, the dubplate’s higher frequencies gradually disappear and the surface noise increases. Throughout Oltre, ominous tones pierce dense masses of surface noise produced by the needle gouging the vinyl surface.
The opening piece, “Isole: Allargando Nero,” serves as a good representative for the album in general. Recorded live at Ionian University, Corfu, Greece, Curgenven wraps multiple sounds—the creak of a boat, waves crashing ashore, flies buzzing, crickets chirping, footsteps trudging—in a thick blanket of crackle, static, hiss, and pops while a soft drone warbles at the center. The natural sounds that figure so prominently in “Isole: Allargando Nero” are almost wholly absent from “Largo Capriccioso,” which is closer in spirit to a surging drone of industrial design; for fourteen minutes, waves of blurry, guitar-generated tones rise and fall, augmented by seeming thrums of insects and vinyl crackle. While a level of intensity pervades “Isole: Allargando Nero,” the other settings are calmer by comparison. A thunderstorm is present at the outset of the closing piece, “Nero Lento: Coda Lunga,” but it quickly recedes, allowing for a micro-sound interplay of high-pitched tones, vinyl crackle and hiss, and insect calls to move into the spotlight. When the needle digs deeply into the dubplate’s surface at the twelve-minute mark, it’s hard not to think of Curgenven as a kindred spirit to Philip Jeck. Though the physical interaction between the turntable, dubplate and stylus accounts for much of the recording’s textural detail, Curgenven makes the most of the sound-generating properties of the other sources too—subsonic feedback from the ventilators, for example—in generating immense fields of constantly shifting sounds. (textura.org)

El sello de Richard Chartier, LINE, edita esta joya de Robert Curgenven. Oltre esta realizado con objetos-instrumentos: basicamente con dubplate (disco especial de acetato), vinilos, tocadiscos, grabaciones de campo y feedback de guitarra. 5 temas de un trabajo sonoro finísimo, bastante “escuchable” (frente a algunos otros trabajos de musica experimental) y minimalista de algun modo, que crean atmósferas fascinantes, sorprendentes, que querras oir una y otra vez. (Rotor, Spain)

The five lengthy pieces on Oltre are thick with tarry dread and pour soaking doom; sound artist & uneasy mood setter Robert Curgenven users a mixture of :Resonating dubplate, Turntables, field recordings, guitar feedback and ventilation/fan sounds to create these thick oppressive & doomed slow moving sonic places. Most of the tracks here start out in a similar manner with long doomed trails of sustain & black as night feedback which Curgenven stretchers & pulls out like a thick rough weaved dark fabric blanket over the listeners psyche. Then as the tracks develop or thicken their dreadful grip on the listener he introduces other subtle elements like creepy vinyl crackle, field recordings of night time bird song, fly buzzing, approaching storm sounds & all manner of errier sonic matter. The tracks are often sonically simply in their make, but it’s the way Curgenven aptly and grimly over laps the pitch black sustains, sluggish dark feed back trails & other elements that makes this so atmospherically appealing and rewarding. Oltre is an album that slowly, but surely sucks you into it’s own distinctive slow-moving and eternal night time world. It’s an album that wont be rushed or taking in a half hearted manner;you have to give into it & let yourself be brought down to it’s slowly moving dark and doomed pace. 4 / 5 stars. (musiquemachine.com)

I don’t think I’d ever heard of Robert Curgenven prior to this CD. Though he’s been active Australia’s sound art scene for a number of years now and performed across Europe, he’s only released a couple of CDrs before Oltre, which is his first proper release—and it’s a fascinating introduction to his work. The basic source material here is the so-called Transparence resonating dubplate, which Curgenven produced while an Artist in Residence at the O’ Aroteca in Milan. For the dubplate, Cugenven recorded feedback drones at low volume in the gallery space at O’ Aroteca. This meant that when he subsequently used the dubplate in a series of performances on a two-month tour of Europe, it was played back at high volume, so that the sound of the playback—the stylus and mechanism of the turntable itself—is always in evidence. With each performance, the dubplate wore down and decayed, as the stylus cut into the fragile vinyl surface. The five pieces on Oltre are artifacts from these performances. In them, Curgenven layers the shuddering hum and soft crackle of the dubplate with guitar feedback, the sound of ventilator fans, and some rather extraordinary location recordings of insects, thunderstorms, and the like. The music is quiet, full of slight textural shifts, emphasizing the interplay between the drone of the fans and the drone of the dubplate, the chirping of insects and the crackle of vinyl. One could almost describe it as meditative, were it not for the persistent sense of unease (perhaps from the vague menace of feedback) that underlies all five pieces, but particularly the fourth, “Largo Capriccioso.” All in all a very, very nice release. (rarefrequency.com)

De Australiër Robert Curgenven is met Oltre niet aan zijn proefstuk toe. De man bewees eerder l zijn passie voor omgevingsgeluiden en soundscapes. Op Oltre verfijnt hij zijn techniek en zoekt hij naar de beperkingen van de vinylplaat. Waar andere muzikanten de vinylplaat zien als een geluidsdrager bekijkt Curgenven het object als een volwaardig instrument. Tijdens zijn residentie in het kunstencentum O’ te Milaan maakte hij verschillende opnames van de omgevingsgeluiden in het kunstencentrum. Deze opnames werden later in Berlijn op een heel laag volume geperst en opnieuw op een luid volume afgespeeld. Het resultaat van het opnemen, afspelen, manipuleren en opnieuw opnemen doet erg denken aan het werk van William Basinski en vooral door het gebruikte procédé aan I Am Sitting In A Room van Alvin Lucier. Deze Amerikaanse componist nam in een kamer zijn eigen stem op en nam vervolgens deze opname tien keer opnieuw op. Het resultaat was een hybride, intense geluidscollege. Ook nu is het vooral de intensiteit van de opnames die ons het meest wist te verrassen – na twintig jaar ons te bewegen in het genre, zijn we ondertussen vertrouwt met de typische klankkleur van geluidsgolven en omgevingsgeluid. Curgenven slaagt erin om binnen een genre dat zich vaak beperkt tot een serie herhalingsoefeningen een mooi en verrassend coherent werkstuk af te leveren. (Gonzo Circus Magazine, Belgium/NL)

…l’australiano Robert Curgenven, del quale è fresco di stampa il nuovo album su Line. Realizzato con l’ausilio di giradischi, ventilatori, feedback di chitarra, registrazioni ambientali e la manipolazione di un acetato in vinile, Oltre è una sorta di sfida ai limiti fisici del supporto e della percezione uditiva, via austere bordate di drone music densamente organica. (7) (Blow Up, IT)

The official LINE, as it were, is re-stated by Robert Curgenven whose more concept/process-driven sound art approach is evident even before reading Oltre‘s liner notes. Basic source material is the Transparence resonating dubplate, for which Curgenven recorded feedback drones at low volume in the gallery space at O’ Aroteca in Milan while Artist in Residence. It documents its degradation and transmutation over months of performances. High volume playback exposes the sound of the stylus and turntable mechanism, the dubplate increasingly worn and decayed with stylus-on-vinyl depredations. The dubplate operates within an integrated system of subsonic feedback from ventilators, acoustically gated binaural microphones, modal micro-variations in guitar feedback, field recordings from remote areas of Australia and its own aleatoric undertones and overtones from the live interaction of turntable, dubplate and stylus. These elements conspire to create a field within each piece moving beyond the original recordings and their individual spaces. These recorded fields play out into a suite of pieces in an oeuvre of which Oltre forms one, itself further conceived as movements with titles articulated in Italian musicological terms; case in point being “Acciaccatura Amplificata”, wherein ventilator fans, and insect chirp conspire with guitar feedback to push the crepuscular hum and crackle of the dubplate towards Badalamenti-esque low-light cinematics. Throughout, his orchestrations of slight textural shifts, the interplay between hum and drone, found sounds and vinyl crackle effect a satisfyingly uneasy suspension between rapt contemplative and grim angst-ridden, notably on the doom-struck seductivity of “Largo Capriccioso.” (furthernoise.org)

Robert Curgenven quant à lui, est australien de son état et figure parmi les derniers arrivés sur le navire Line. Il rejoint donc à bord des personnalités telles qu’Alva Noto, Christopher Willits, Kenneth Kirschner ou William Basinski. Pas le genre de types à tricoter des albums entiers avec des crissements de freins de fiat panda (si ça peut en rassurer certains). Tout de même, Line aime à produire des documents sonores originaux et déconcertants sur la forme comme des installations sonores par exemple.
Oltre, le nouvel album de Curgenven ne fait pas exception à la règle. Il se présente comme un recueil de performances live. Il en compte 5 en tout et pour tout, captées à chaque dans des lieux différents. Mais en réalité, ces 5 compositions participent du même processus et réutilisent le même matériel : à savoir un simple signal sonore, brut de décoffrage et contenu tout entier sur une dubplate. A chaque fois ce signal est joué live, augmenté de fields recordings métalliques ou naturalistes, de bidouillages à la guitare électrique et d’autres éléments non-identifiés, puis réenregistré en l’état sur un nouveau support. L’opération étant répétée systématiquement. Curgenven nous invite donc à nous laisser pénétrer de ce signal maintes fois éprouvé par les réenregistrements successifs, et à suivre son évolution au fil des représentations et des humeurs de l’artiste. A l’image de son artwork, Oltre ferait bien office de friche industrielle sonore, se désagrégeant au fil du temps, se métamorphosant, se reconstituant, passant à travers une multitude de processus organiques.
Si Oltre reste une oeuvre un minimum exigeante, elle possède un pouvoir hypnotique indéniable. Elle ravira sûrement ceux qui aiment à vagabonder longuement, sous l’emprise de rêves et autres visions de l’esprit induis par une telle musique. Au final, on situerait bien Oltrequelque part entre les Disintegration Loops de Basinski, le dernierSolo Andata et les expériences du japonais Shinobu Nemoto. Tout un programme en perspective… (dmute.net)