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(af). BEN OWEN
(CON-V 2011)

Ben Owen is a sound artist from Brooklyn, New York who is also manager of the label Winds Measure Recordings; he recently published two works on Spanish label CON-V, Tanabe, Voltear (published in cassette format) and (af) published in FLAC format which is the subject of this review. Have to say that Tanabe, Voltear is also a very strong work but I found (af) quite interesting to write about.

As it reads on the liner notes for (af) “…was a conscious document of a place”; it’s about a documentation and it’s also about what is being documented: the room and its metaphorical and sonic properties.

A room that works quite well conceptually and formally. A room that has an interesting reading; the room as a metaphoric figure to the self, to the conscience: a conscience that  listens and is also invaded by sounds brought by our memory and desire.

(af) is a very immersive piece probably in relation to “the room” understood as a closed space that the inhabitant fills in. (af) takes time to “kick in” like if water were slowly filling a containing glass; once the listener is immersed he’ll experience the poetic value of this work that actually occurs in its mimetic properties, in its own invisibility. The room finally appears when it’s fully invisible.

The structure to (af) is lineal, the structure is the room, something that is always there, invisible and yet core for the sensible experience; the “sound object” concept and its phenomenological lecture are incidentally or purposely dealt with here on a strong poetical way: the impossibility of silence becomes the place where the sound object appears and occurs. This makes sense when listening to (af).

Unprovoked incidental sounds -product of the listener’s memory and desire- coexists with the incidental sounds of our everyday experience. When working with field recordings the sound artist uses the incidental, the “noise”, to make out of it a new experience, one that is not the everyday one; the will in the action of recording and composing uses the invisible element to make it visible and desirable and more important, extraordinary. The sound artist working with the incidental creates a new memory that is collective and that somehow links what is outside us with what is inside us.

An intriguing element to (af) is the guitar chords at the end of 01-21 5 that have a very interesting effect on the whole experience adding what I would describe as a of doom-folk element to the emotional structure of the release.

A very successful work in terms how it deals with its own thematic and sensible explorations.

– John McEnroe

Ben Owen website
CON-V website