issue 21 :: March 2012

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Review: Moniek Darge

Crete Soundies CD (Kye)
Kye continues their important cultural work by another two releases of Moniek Darge’s expansive sonic creativity; important for sound lovers in general and me in particular. They should be commended far beyond these meager words of thanks. Darge has had a long and varied career in exploring sound, instruments, performance, object creation, robot orchestras and I can’t pretend to know more than a tiny amount of her work. “Crete Soundies” collects three recent (2006-2009) location works on the famous island as part of the Levka Ori festival. “Magnesia” was one of Plato’s utopias, which he dreamt to be on Crete, realized here by Darge and collaborators by recording crickets, goats, sea surf, human voices and locally-played music. The magic utopia, suggests the liner notes, lies not in the sounds, but in the attraction “as if my magnetic power” of creative people to the site, to the festival, to another of Plato’s works. This, and the other works on the disc, bring to my mind the radio works of Arsenije Jovanovic. “Anemos,” also created during the festival, is recordings of the relentless wind, and objects battered by the wind, made atop one of the mountains, where Plato’s city was fictionally located. Not meaning to a criticism of these essential releases, but like Darge’s earlier CD on Kye, the liner notes are too brief; there must be pages and pages of stories behind each of these pieces. Whose voice do we hear, almost chanting an invocation in a language I do not recognize? Under what rules/ideas were these pieces assembled? We don’t enjoy the music any less for not knowing. “East Crete” was recorded on another side of the island, searching for remnants of the Mother Goddess cult, which predated what we know as the ancient Greek mythology (read Robert Graves’ weighty novel The Golden Fleece / Hercules, My Shipmate) for an account of how the older matriarchal religion was supplanted by the newer religion of Zeus). Darge and her collaborator Françoise Vanhecke claim success, meeting a young girl and an old woman in their travels who embodied the Mother Goddess as they recorded traffic and radio sounds, people talking and many chirping crickets.
Sounds of Sacred Places CD (Kye)
This was known to me a bootleg downloaded from SoulSeek—it is beyond nice to be able to buy my own copy of these 1980s recordings released on a 1987 LP. For this third Kye release, we get more copious liner notes, providing a clearer picture of each piece’s generation. The title would suggest that these are simple recordings made at various religious sites, but, in fact, and again thinking of Arsenije Jovanovic, these five pieces are complex compilations, drawing in other recordings than those made at the sites. “Abbey Sounds” includes spoken impressions of the St. Bavo abbey in Ghent by Dutch, French and American artists, including vocalist David Moss. These words, in a mixture of languages, go on over a near drone of cooing doves recorded on the abbey’s roof. “Three Sunbeams” and “Solstice Sun” both involve creative recordings of Belgium church bells; contact mics and electronic processing turn these sounds into unusual pieces. “Solstice Sun” sounds like an early Sähkö release, layers of heavy thuds throb into pulsing rhythms, regular beats that slowly evolve. “Three Sunbeams” sounds more like bells being rung, their decaying overtones mixing together as they fade. “Turkish Square” compiles recordings made over the course of a year at a park near Darge’s Logos Foundation studio in Belgium. It is not stated why this is a sacred place, surrounded by droning power plants, workers’ housing and playing/crying children. Perhaps after of recording and photographing the space for a year, the park became special, sacred, in its mundainity.
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