BEHIND THE DECKS
The gramophone record is at once the sign of music in the last century, and a touchstone by which those born before c1980 can identify direct personal experiences, whether nostalgia about life moments, discoveries of sound and music in childhood and adolescence, or sublime listening experiences in maturity.
|Ultramodern's use of the record-player and their own custom-made discs in their performances salutes and celebrates a resilient medium. In the realms of popular music, especially the underground, and increasingly in experimental art music, the turntable is becoming an instrument in its own right. DJs are pop stars and the records they play are largely inconsequential: their skill as turntable-instrumentalists is to keep mixing seamlessly to a regular beat, which involves an innate rhythmic ability, an awareness of what sounds are compatible and a technical skill with their pitchable turntables, signal mixers, cross-faders, samplers &c. Artist Philip Jeck has shown what is possible to achieve with seemingly obsolete record-player technology. Project Dark have made records from ephemeral materials. Japanese artists have made music from record players without records. For Ultramodern, turntables are instruments as guitar, bass and drums are instruments, and are treated with effects in the same way to exploit their own unique tonal qualities: a deck playing at 16rpm through a flanger is a very different animal from a DJ deck looping at 45 through a digital effects box.|
The custom disc has a long history: Moholy Nagy experimented with hand cut discs in the Bauhaus. The locked grooves of Schaeffer and Henry were the original raw material of Musique Concrete. Ultramodern have compiled a series of discs featuring only locked grooves; from these they derive their marvellous repetitions, enhanced by tape loops and the echo of sounds and musics from the edge of people's memories, including old TV themes and samples, the crackle of records from long forgotten charts, run out grooves and spoken word recordings all sounding like the fringes of the old unclean analogue radio frequencies.
This crackle from the past is re-enforced by that most ubiquitous of modern technologies, the mobile telephone. Sounds stored on answering machines and faintly whispered voices are pressed into service from the ether.
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without whom, none of it would be possible.