As the physical manifestations of musical recordings are becoming more and more dependent on their status as art objects in order to sell and to be noticed, the ideas concerning how to elevate records to that status have become conceptual works themselves. Collin McKelvey’s 7” release on Land and Sea strives for the high art forms in numerous ways. The stark white, minimalist cover features the name and label in simple letterpress, keeping the white on white museum aesthetic. Inside is the record itself on clear vinyl, a short critical essay (which also serves as an artist’s statement), and a clear PVC sleeve to hold the record which is itself a lathe-cut recording. This is a well-constructed and beautifully presented package for this tribute in sound using amplified ice, voice and modular synthesizer.
Paul Kos is a conceptual artist known for his experiments with balance and symmetry. Kos can write forwards and backwards with both hands at the same time, creating mirrors of text in real-time. He is well-known for his early video works and for the piece, The Sound of Ice Melting, from 1970. That is the piece being paid tribute here by California minimalist, Collin McKelvey. The idea for both Kos and McKelvey is to free the inner voice of the ice block by amplifying the process of liquification. McKelvey adds new layers to this in an attempt to make it a bit more musical, or at least to make it more his own. Downward cascading portamento glides and electronic ticks and chimes play along with the whistle and crackle of the ice. Tape-delayed scrapes and the subtle echo of an industrial pounding mixed with a natural, evaporative hush. While this is certainly more art than it is music, there is a pleasant ambient ease accompanying the spin of this vinyl.
McKelvey has previously made ambient and minimalist works under the name Orbless and released albums on Mars Pyramid and Beach House Records. This record uses his actual name, signifying the move toward art rather than being a band. The 7” has two different versions of “Composition for Synthesizer, Voice and Ice”. One side is a live edit from a performance at The Berkeley Art Museum and the other side is an excerpt from a studio version of the piece. The lathe-cut sleeve contains a third permutation. That one is the least musical of all, perhaps due to the sonic limitations of cutting sound into malleable plastic. The whole process of amplified deterioration would surely strike the audience more effectively in live performance. On record, this is not the sort of thing that one would listen to very often. However, as an art object and as a conceptual work that is itself a tribute to conceptual art, this item is a unique collectible and a magnificent example of how music-as-art-objects can be presented in the 21st century.
A1) Radio Edit
B1) Live Edit