"Musique concrete" has generally had a bad rap. The problem lies in the "musique" part of the equation. Being constructed from found sounds or by mixing up sounds into some other form, musique concrete doesn't conform to a definition of "music" as most understand it. Put it this way: you can't whistle it.
So it's a courageous, inspired or art council-sponsored artist who enters the territory. Friend is actually Chris Knox, who is all of the above, and these nine pieces range from three brief "easy pieces" at less than two minutes of Protools-edited piano to lengthy things involving reprocessed field recordings (literally, in one case, Scrape, which began with the sound of raking rubbish off Ericsson Stadium) and the usual digging about in the belly of a piano.
If all this sounds unlistenable - or worse, masturbatory - it isn't. Knox creates spatial sense, tension and even humour as he takes (most of) the material far from its source while bringing his musical sensibilities to bear.
Cheap Jazz is a quizzical little affair of almost melodic scraping and ticking over a heartbeat, Insecticider is like a stoned, electro-ambient night at a mosquito pond, and Scrape is almost funky in places before it hits a middle section of amusingly irritating overtones and drones.
A couple of the "easy pieces" sound too easy, but the 11-minute Heartbeat Whale Meat at the end, a rehit of Cheap Jazz with a discreet Tall Dwarfs rhythm added, is a quiet, sonic spaceflight through the subconscious.
No, it's obviously not for everyone but if the label "musique concrete" doesn't send you rushing for your Carpenters' greatest hits or the words "arts council-sponsored" don't have you firing off a stiff letter of disapproval to the Minister of Arts, then this is more than an indulgent digression.
Can't see any of it featuring on playlists - although it might be coming to a gallery installation, fringe festival or soundtrack near you soon." Elsewhere
- First Easy Piece
- Cheap Jazz
- Fifth Easy Piece
- Second Easy Piece
- Third Easy Piece
- Heartbeat Whale Meat