Until this album, I was of the firm opinion that I hate those experimental albums where they use super-high-frequency tones. I am a huge fan of Otomo Yoshihide, for instance; yet, despite this deep and abiding love, I can barely listen to those albums of his that utilise the frequent application of super-high sine waves. I love noise. I love overpowering walls of chaos that leave my mind wiped clean and my jaw clenched in primal defence. I love shrieking and madness and pretty much every conceivable sound that has ever been made, except those synapse-piercing high fucking tones—or so I thought. After this album, I feel like the other guy in Green Eggs and Ham: the guy who isn’t Sam-I-Am, who eventually gives in to the unending cajoling and reluctantly tries them—and they’re good.
This album does have super-high tones (as I sadly discovered on my first listen), and so I was fully prepared to hate it and dismiss it as unlistenable. But what Todd Anderson-Kunert (long-standing pillar of the Melbourne experimental music/art scene) does with them on this album is actually really quite remarkable. Each piece is constructed incredibly minimally, with slow and steady interchanging pulses, drones, tones, and textures. So, when the high tones come in, they actually serve a greater goal, carefully balancing against a rough static-charge bed of white noise, or poised floating above a sea of low-end sine magic like some laser bridging a black and undulating ocean. The changes between one segment and the next are sometimes gradual as one set of textures sinks away and is gently replaced by another, but more often than not, the changes are abrupt, like the flipping of a switch, one ultra-minimal section of almost unhearable, low subwoofer tones suddenly replaced with a buzz of warm hiss, or a tonal bath of purified sine waves, or a set of super-high frequencies that are so beyond normal hearing that they are almost like a taste in the air, a three-dimensional flavour in the air that can only be tasted by the ear. And, bugger me, I actually like it. It works really well. In the context of these incredibly minimal architectural sound-structures, these stupidly high frequencies are almost not painful at all but work in the way a stupidly hot curry works, or an almost painfully sweet dessert can work. That is, they are still kind of painful, but they fit the shape of the other sounds so well that the painfulness itself almost becomes a necessary part of the flavour. I’m not entirely certain why I’m using the language of food here, but that may be in part because these sounds are so far out of the realm of ‘normal music’ that they almost require a different way of talking about them. These pieces are almost shaped—physically shaped in three dimensions, as the effect of the sound fills up the room in different ways like an ultrasound image or echolocation. The simplicity of the sounds—the bare minimalistic approach—verges on clinical or diagnostic, but is at the same time very much unremoved from the human experience of taking up space and experiencing organism-ness. See how powerful this album is? It makes me talk like a complete wanker.
The artwork, which is simply the title written on a white cover, is similarly minimal, so you know this is all deliberate. Even the title, When There Is Nothing Left to Say, seems to decry the notion of this music being about something else, suggesting that this is not a form of representation but about the actual sounds themselves. There is nothing to say with this music: It is entirely about the experience of the music itself; the very sounds coming out of those speakers and how they hit your organic physical self; the pain and the pleasure and everything in between. These sounds are about that exact experience. The low sounds bypass the ear and hit you straight in the organs while the high sounds bypass the ear and tickle you right in the synapse. It is a deliberate and really quite beautiful attempt at shutting up all the voices, the meanings, the chatter, the implications, and the interpretations, and just existing, feeling, hearing, tasting, and being, coaxed into legit being-hood by the minimalistic washes and molecular agitations of good-ol’ capital ‘a’ Art. And that kind of shit couldn’t come at a better time. Well done, Todd—well done.
I would hear it on a boat. I would hear it with a goat. I would hear it here, or there. I would hear it anywhere!
01) You Just Know
03) When a Warm Embrace Feels Cold