A while and awhile. FRANCISCO MEIRINO
I have seen a photograph of an open case which is absolutely stuffed full of black cables and wires. Next to these is a metal box with eleven knobs on, each one turned to a different setting. At the side of this case, hanging from a drumstick projecting from the top of a reel-to-reel tape recorder, are several magnetic tape loops. These items belong to Francisco Meirino, and if ever anyone needed an illustration of what ‘A while and awhile’ might sound like, they need look no further.
Meirino seems to be using two categories of sound here: The physical ( flicking switches, starting fans, clanking metal and generally shuffling around ), and the electrical ( low hums, sparky crackles, overloaded circuits and the sound of fingers on jack plugs ). From this palette he blends pinpoint clicks and sub-bass rumbles with everything in between and comes out with a constantly changing and evolving music of chance encounters.
The first of the nine tracks for example, unnamed except for its length of duration ( 4.51 ), begins with sounds that might be generated in one’s mouth. Spittle snaps and pops in a salivary display of crepitation. Beneath this a deep, ominous hum takes shape and begins rising from nothing. Before long other mysterious activity, as if from far off rooms carried down ventilation shafts and bounced off walls, becomes apparent.
We’re located in a no-man’s land where it is hard to get a grasp of the location. This is certainly a physical world, but power surges and badly soldered electrical components are rendering the infrastructure dangerous. I see from his website that Meirino has a preference for performing live in absolute darkness. I can visualise the air around him igniting and glowing in iridescent flashes as charged particles collide and decay.
The term ‘glitch’ is an ugly word, and it seems to have been taken on board by a generation of electronic artists wanting to disrupt the metallic sheen of computer music with carefully placed flecks and meticulously honed cuts. Mereino’s work should not be confused with self-conscious confections of this nature. His art paints a raw and unpolished landscape with surprises and danger at every turn.
His music explores the tension between programmable material and the potential for its failure. Track 8 puts me inside a computer, but not in a digital way. Not in the sense of being incorporated into the programme as data like Tron. Instead I’m among the fans that cool the processor. I can hear the data transfers occurring via the wires and I can sense the power coming in from the mains, but it’s all so poorly insulated that energy is leaking out at random points. Instability is increasing. Help!
‘A while and awhile’ is awash with forces and potentials pulling in all directions. Meirino has developed a purely personal way of articulating his chosen material, and in doing so has created a compelling and completely enthralling piece of work. If this becomes your introduction to this artist, as it was mine, you will want to explore more and search out further examples. Believe me, naked electricity is positively addictive.
I would like to end this review with a piece of advice: Never let Francisco Meirino rewire your house!
[Fransisco Meirino, photo from his website]