Switches & Hose is one of two dispatches from Australia, courtesy of Sydney’s Splitrec label – recordings by two artists operating on Australia’s south east coast. It’s by Dale Gorfinkel, a Melbourne-based multi-instrumentalist, installation artist, instrument builder and community activist. The other, reviewed here, is by Peter Farrar, a saxophonist based in Sydney’. Both are very different.
Gorfinkel’s Switches & Hose – released in 2014, but new to me – is marked by its variety. His engagement with music clearly has a social and community aspect, and although his album is ostensibly solo, the four pieces on it each stem from locality- and site-specific installations or performances that involved a variety of materials and, occasionally, musical instruments.
As his own website, dalegorfinkel.com says, some of his pieces “seek a tactile interactivity especially popular with children. He builds both instruments and “automated sonic contraptions”, plays in an extravagantly masked and costumed street band, The Prophets, and sees play is an important part of any creative process. He founded Out Hear “to encourage a culture of listening (through) soundwalks and performances in…urban, bush & odd in-between spaces,” seeking to “address issues of ecological awareness, well-being & accessibility.”
He’s also, incidentally, an occasional associate of Jim Denley, an Australian saxophonist who plays on a couple of great albums I’ve recently reviewed: those by Mural and Kim Myhr & Jenny Hval. He’s also recorded for Splitrec.
“Switches & Hose” (9:40) is a performance on footpump, balloons, garden irrigation, taps, plastic containers, and reeds. Gorfinkel produces a tight, squeaky and compressed but intermittently motoric flow of sound that approximates abstract laptop noise music, albeit with an acoustic/organic edge, and with an ersatz bellows-driven reed organ quality at the end. It’s perhaps a bit shrill to be purely enjoyable, but it is an ear-snagger, and strikingly different.
The metallic, threadbare gamelan of “Gong Cage” (6:00) is quite a contrast. This documents an kinetic sound sculpture in a bird cage – a recording made in Yogyakata, Indonesia, April 2014. It’s a piece of quietly complex indeterminacy. The sculpture might be automated, but a play small percussion sounds maybe suggests otherwise.
Gorfinkel’s first speciality was jazz vibraphone, which he began playing at the age of 14. He doesn’t play the instrument on “I’m Walking in a Room, with Two Vibraphones” (7:19) though – it’s a self-descriptive piece of sound art, recorded in a Melbourne community centre. Very different again, with constant, multi-layered harmonics of shimmering metal creating a pleasing wash of luminously blooming sound. Musically, on record at least, it’s the strongest piece here, as well as being the most conceptually economical.
“Enoggera” (8:34) is a performance on a trumpet modified using “plastic tubing, footpumps, shower roses, balloons, and various mouthpieces.” The recording was made at a Brisbane Reservoir in 2013, and it’s permeated with birdsong and other environmental sounds. In effect, it’s a subtler, more (loosely) ‘ambient’ relation of the title cut.
Fascinating stuff, all told, and life’s all the better for it.
Dale Gorfinkel footpump, balloons, garden irrigation, taps, plastic containers, reeds, kinetic sound sculpture, vibraphones, modified trumpet.