Sound Body

[Samadhi Sound, www.samadhisound.com]

I came to David Toop's music through his work with Max Eastley. His "New and Re-Discovered Musical Instruments" album from thirty years ago was a real mind-opener at the time. Thirty years down the line, this new music pioneer/composer tends to amaze with an album that is thoughtful as it is non-musical. To call "Sound Body" music would be a grand disservice. Album itself is a collection of found and recorded sounds. David Toop plays everything from flutes, bass, guitars, percussion, stones, dog whistles, bird calls, electronics to his computer. Alongside, he has a dozen renowned guests sitting in on various tracks. People like violin player Angharad Davies, flautist Clive Bell, harpist Rhodri Davies, vocalist/sound artists Haco, koto player Miya Masoka, iPod fan Gunter Muller [who is credited with stones and textures], sound artist Rafael Toral, flautist Emi Watanabe, all share in Toop's ideas. He amalgamates a number of ideas to make a unified whole. Getting back to my original point - this is not music. Found sounds is what I'd refer to this audio material. Strange sounds are all over the place on the five long pieces. From gentle taps of percussion, rocks hitting metal surface, wood being tapped, glitchy computer noise, reverb, train-whistles, kettle boiling. All of this sounds as if it were recorded inside of a barren room. The emptiness of these unique sounds is overbearing at points in that they seem to come out of nowhere. Listener is never forewarned that a new element will enter the picture. Element of surprise works quite well but the bareness ultimately leaves the listener somehow feeling cold. When asked about the Sound Body, Toop explained, "In English, Sound Body means a healthy, strong body. Implicit in the expression is an idea of the whole body. But actually I feel that the body is a collection of fragments. My idea of the sound body is the context in which music takes place. This can be a physical environment, a virtual environment, a setting such as a festival with its attendant scenes, a way of life, or a conceptual idea of what sound work is all about. So this sound body is a meeting place, where different kinds of sound, different kinds of musician, different ideas and experiences come together. We all live in this sound body as we move around, taking in our environments, whether out in the wild or media-saturated." Point is, though some of these sounds - the way they're corralled together, in clusters - aren't exactly smooth in being glued into one whole, in general the record works quite well. If only to show the desolate nature of sounds and the bareness of purpose, "Sound Body" is an out-of-body, cosmic experience that is likely never to be duplicated. Stunning!

- Tom Sekowski

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