8.26.20 by Matty McPherson
Have you ever been to one of those scientific labs where you can twist knobs that make cool sound experiments? Of course not-it costs too much money and you blew your PhD on studying Film Theory instead of electronics!
Fortunately, Never Anything has been offering scientific sonic experiments for the home audio system. Loyal Tabs Out readers know that Never Anything specializes in multi-faceted sonic endeavors always worthy of a lookout, and Madam Data & Leo Suarez’s place is no exception.
Madam Data has been cooking up something good in Philadelphia, working in underground circles across a plethora of sounds from punk to minimalism. For place, they are focused on field recordings, abstracted to render a sonic space claustrophobic. They partnered with Leo Suarez, a percussionist eager to take an “objects as percussion” approach to sound. The result is pure spectral uncertainty.
Unlike in some high-art European countries, where you can just rent a room and go hog wild with recording this space, Madam Data and Suarez took this to Philadelphia freeform airwaves! The two performances off of Side A, “catskills 051419” and “radio philadelphia 043019” both explore spectral uncertainty in contrasting ways. The former track is full of low ends that enact a low droning bubble. It is a tense stillness, with Suarez’s percussives implying movement and diegetic world sounds, while Madam Data’s samples coming like non-diegetic blips that jolt the body for a moment. The latter track is akin to scanning a frequency in a storm of whtie noise. Even with Suarez’s percussives, holding their own groove in place, there’s a desperate cry for a spectral certainty as Data’s electronics falter.
Whether a spatial certainty can be constructed at all comes into focus on Side B. “a topology on skin” provides an intense focus on linking fingers to the sounds of percussives and electronics. The skitters and touches of the two performer’s respective instruments sound like an airless dialogue, suggesting a mending of the omnibus digital with the tiny corporeal. Yet, this dialogue grows more restless and existential on “stand of mangroves in John Heinze Nature Reserve”, before reflecting on the previous four tracks with “dishwasher erotica”. The atmosphere is murkier, without betraying any of the claustrophobia. In fact, it slowly arrives at a crescendo that only further builds in the idea of having to accept the spectral uncertainty.
For the percussive pedant and the existential dweller, place will concoct an environment that holds you close, if only because these artists want to remind you of how much your environment holds you close already.