Philip Sulidae has kept himself busy. The Australian artist, who’s released a slew of notable works over the last 9 years — the ones on Belgium’s Unfathomless immediately come to mind — has now kicked off a tape label of his own. Early 2018 saw Hemisphäreの空虚’s first three releases, showcasing work from Leo Okagawa, Masayuki Imanishi, and Sulidae himself. The enigmatic masthead translates to something like empty world, or empty sphere, but I’m not exactly sure. I was grateful to receive these in the mail quite a while back, but am only now finding the time to listen. It also made matters worse that until a few days ago I was without a functioning in-house tape player for months. Happy to announce that this is no longer the case, and that the reels are once again spinning in the Seed office.
Sulidae’s work that I’ve heard has tended to sit somewhere loosely around a found-sound and caustic field recording style. I noticed the label has future plans to release music from Eamon Sprod (Tarab), a fellow Australian whose work bares a striking resemblance to Sulidae’s. One can sense a musical dialect forming. There is a liveliness to Variations on Plastic, blossoming out of a restless patchwork of sounds that take plenty of unexpected turns. Perhaps most striking is the intimacy of this music, where object and/or phenomena feel closely mic’d. Sulidae is inspired by the musical potential of everyday objects like cans, twine, sticks and tin, and the often clumsy, unremarkable sounds they produce. In Sulidae’s hands, however, he almost makes them remarkable when swathed in electroacoustic feedback. Nice touch to leave in certain sounds that clue the listener in on surrounding human activity, such as the honk of a car horn or the sound of footsteps, momentarily freeing one from the unknown by providing a familiar marker. A fine inaugural release.
The Japanese sonic-collage artist, Leo Okagawa has included a note on the packaging for Buzz on the Moon that reads: make sounds degrade by repeating playback. I’m sure it’s just meant to reveal a bit about his process but I can’t help but interpret it as a demand, or at very least advice to his unassuming audience. Certainly, this music is not to be taken lightly, compositionally sitting pretty close to Sulidae’s album, but Buzz on the Moon is a far noisier, unnerving experience. Okagawa’s noise resides in raw tones, presumably degraded through an idiosyncratic playback system that summons the spectres that dwell within peculiar approaches to sound. There is an excellent flow here. I never feel rushed along the experience of listening, the abrasive sections coming and going relatively quickly (as they should), and the meditative passages given the appropriate amount of time to become known and then evolve. Reminds me of this Alfredo Costa Monteiro & Ben Owen album from way back when. “Power-Electroacoustics.”
Pushing on to Masayuki Imanishi’s Maze, we are graced with a release that, sonically, falls somewhere in between the first two. The speaker/synth influence of Imanishi’s music renders something less impressionistic than Okagawa’s album, while the object/field recording aspects never quite reach the same level of intimacy displayed on Sulidae’s. Instead, Maze is rooted in sonic translations of tactility and physicality. Side II reveals this more, where Imanishi’s perpetually tumbling compositions give Jeph Jerman a run for his money — I think I can hear the paper being used that’s mentioned in the album notes, maybe amplified through a grainy speaker, but I could be wrong (after all, it’s not exactly lowercased). As a closing aside, I think Sulidae and Hemisphäreの空虚 have done a fantastic job launching the label and creating a first string of tapes that are as sonically cohesive as they are artistically. I’ll be anticipating their next batch.