Focus on Nothing on Focus.
(Aussenraum 2013)

Review by Chris Whitehead

Whether it’s relevant or not I don’t know, but immediately before listening to Focus on Nothing on Focus by Francisco Meirino and Kiko C. Esseiva in order to make notes for the final review, I watched a documentary about Joy Division. The record is a 12″ vinyl black void with a black label which you might think is a precursor to the abyssal darkness contained within. In fact after Joy Division’s bleak visions born of greyscale Manchester streets steeped in rain and the bedroom’s so cold, you turn away on your side, it was a relief to enjoy some movement, vibration and a surprising selection of fleeting semi-colours.

four men on a bridge

Assembled in 2012 and 2013 from hours of multitrack recordings as a duo, each artist was given one side of the record to present his individual composition using the original material as the building blocks. As the first release on Andreas Unterkircher’s Ausenraum label, the black and white cover picture of electrical equipment cut up and interrupted, repeated and sliced, slid out of place and readjusted, then partially contained within a perfect circle seems an apt metaphor for the processes etched into the grooves here.

she filled her time pushing the pram round Salford

There is an interesting YouTube video of Meirino and Esseiva playing together as a duo in an art gallery or something similar. They are set up against a side wall on a long table next to each other. Various people are seated in the white space, others walk in and out informally. Being able to see all this taking place, the physical approach of each artist is interesting and illuminating and offers some understanding into why each side of this LP sounds as it does.

tear us apart

Meirino stands bent over his black boxes of plugs and wires activating switches and summoning up raw electrical bleed and grime from the insides of these dark objects. He turns a torch on and off at intervals, and the completion and termination of the circuit is heard as a visceral thud. Essevia remains seated at his desk and, amongst other things, manipulates a tape recorder thoughtfully and subtly, reacting and operating within and against the bodily groundedness of the sputtering sound shrapnel exhibiting a concentrated intelligence and sense of purpose. Whether this performance formed part of the substrata from which this LP was carved I don’t know, but it is certainly an informative document.

it’s a picture of a tomb

For me all Meirino’s music seems to exist in a landscape with enhanced perspective and a very remote vanishing point: In other words the sounds are stretched out from incredibly distant thuds occurring below the horizon  to crackles and clicks right up against the eardrum, as if generated inside the speakers themselves independently of anything else.

growling like a dog

Meirino places us on a ship negotiating a sea of fluctuating plasma. Creaks and groans from the rigging and the swell of undulating static gives way to scuttling creature in the hold. Early on a filament of light, a laser emission  like a bowed violin note repeats a few times as a vestige of the sun’s benediction. Later, work of some secret nature takes place. Something rattles back and forth along rails as machines hum. Excited wings vibrate against the microphone and objects drop and roll across the hard floor. People talk, but the men’s voices are rudely cut off and are no more. A crescendo of metal and tooled desolation builds from nothing to form a rattling, prison riot cacophony then… suddenly we are in some dead pond where the water (or some other analogous fluid) carries sounds from afar. Unknown denizens of this inky pool signal to each other ever more frantically, again a crescendo… Nothing… Nothing… Nothing… Run-off groove…

Ian’s dead

Esseiva is an artist I have never heard before. Seemingly his compositional hand is more controlled than Meirino’s and the work focuses more closely on fewer competing strands. This approach yields a completely different experience, yet obviously both sides of the disc are united by their common provenance. Differences aside each promise is fulfilled in its singular entirety.

I came off the phone and went back to the table

Kiko C. Esseiva pledges breath and motors and grinding gears. A ribbon of steady sound unfolds and fades just once. This is a workshop in which the instruments that make this music are being built, and the very building of them is the music itself, and after they have finished playing, the dismantling of them is also the music itself. Sheets of steel and other substances are beaten in frantic rapidity. Tiny hammers pound. Insectoid nano-mosquitoes plague the workspace. Cut. Fibrillating electricity. Cut. A buffeted wire fence with mechanical animoids squeaking and chirruping in iron filing nests. Steel wool ruffles and frazzles. Cut. Dead air. A ball bearing rolls around an uneven plane causing other objects to become infectiously  agitated and inexplicably animated. An organ plays itself, just once.  Vibrating glass planes, jars, flasks and light bulbs. Cut… Near silence… Readjust to the tiny flecks of vinyl crackle not being part of the whole… And yet in a way they are… It all is… Run-off groove… Click… Click… Raise the needle.




[Francisco Meirino: left, Kiko C. Esseiva: right]

Kiko C. Esseiva info
Francisco Meirino website
Aussenraum website

Chris Whitehead

Sound artist.