Individually, Phil Julian and John Macedo belong to the UK’s broad, loose-knit and practically self-effacing sound art community.
Julian (cmx.org.uk) makes analogue and computer-based electronic music on “unstable and/or chaotic systems” such as modular synths, contact mics, objects and surfaces. Active since the 90s, he’s recorded solo as Cheapmachines, as Signals with Mark Beazley and Chris Gowers, and as a member of The Seen, an improvising group led by Mark Wastell. He also runs the Authorised Version micro-label.
Macedo (The Black Plume) is a sound artist who works with acoustic instruments, environmental sound, custom electronics and analogue and computer synths to explore “the ephemeral and hidden potential in all sounds, environments and technologies”.
A recent performance at Cafe Oto involved Macedo, Graham Dunning and Tom White rolling marbles and bouncing rubber balls on a contact-mic’d metal surface (here’s a Vimeo snippet) – just the sort of typically cerebro-playful art-music innings that I usually enjoy, once my doubtful first-voice cynicism yields to the typically openhearted and modest sincerity of the endeavour.
The music Julian and Macedo make in their occasional duo is relatively orthodox.
Bind is a 100-copy CD-only edition on the Hideous Replica label that comes hard on the heels of an ultra-limited, cassette-only release, Live at Cafe Oto, on sister label Wasted Capital Since 2013. Bind was recorded “at various locations in South East London, 2013-16”, and still carries the charge of ‘live’ immediacy in the raw grain of its audio.
It has 11 pieces in all, and plays for 38 minutes, ten of which are accounted for by the closing “Once More, with Feeling”.
While individual cuts are rich in the indeterminacy of inherently unstable patch-cord synthesizer music, the compilation is meticulously realised with abruptly effective segues keeping things moving from the static and glow of “Mire” into the irruptive/becalmed, cracked and frazzled glitch, scrunch and ebb/surge of “Connate” (4:37) and onward.
Individual pieces, though brief, encapsulate progressions – cf. the bursts of skull-piercing noise that introduce the Kid 606-aware “Nil 82 / 248”, which yield to thinner, purer tones. And the track sequencing expands on that, with “Cinnery 1” introducing abstract rhythm and bass notes, “Enhanced Odds” loosening the centre’s hold, and “Simple Moves” bathing over-saturated senses in a crackling, shimmery drone of electronic stridulation.
“Together” slips from proto-industrial glitch-dub into micro-sound, and “Cinnery 2” drops further industrial clangour into unstable screes of friable sonics.
Piece by piece, short-order suppression of initial waywardness is often the order of play, and the album’s whole mirrors its parts as it snakes down to the long goodbye of “Once Moore, with Feeling”, with its false vérité intro of sampled voices and disjunctive noise, and sporadically deep-throbbing low end pulse – despite which, it’s a rough and ready, unsettling and oddly indeterminate finale to an otherwise mercurial but purposeful collection.
Phil Julian and John Macedo dual modular synthesisers, electronics and computers.
Buy Bind direct from Hideous Replica.