ISEA 98 UK Liverpool LIPA
Project DARK, the duo who make records out of solid ruby, larks tongues and Semtex, have added a novel twist to their live presentation, video cameras
mounted on the pick up arms of their turntables, giving the audience a thrilling counterweights eye view of the abuse Kirsten Reynolds is dishing out to her Stanton needle. It’s a great performance, even if the various discs don’t yet sound different enough from each other. But there are signs that, by adding sound processing into the mix, Reynolds and partner Ashley Davies are attempting to nudge the project on from its novelty value.
An intelligent building brings the event to a premature close. DARK‘s rocket-propelled record finale triggers the fire alarm – the best sound of the night – and EAR’s Sonic Boom is hustled, glowering, from his analogue gear before it’s even warmed up. The building spits us out, no noise wanted here; these walls were made for logic and linearity of the lecture.
The Wire, October 1998
BETTER THAN PHIL BABB, IT’S PROJECT DARK
Look, it’s not who they are that’s important, but what they do. Project Dark, quite literally, take the biscuit. Coat it against decay. And then spin it on a pair of Technics in front of bemused, amused and, quite often, downright scared audiences. It’s been three years now, since a pissed flight of fancy led Kirsten Reynolds (red hair), Ashley Davies (blue hair) and video manipulator Tony Pattinson (white hair) to dedicate themselves to producing seven inch singles made out of, among other things; sandpaper, each others hair, glass, wire wool, circular saw blades, wallpaper and a tree stump.
THREE BALD PEOPLE WITH NOTHING TO SAY?
“I would hope that people find it utterly hilarious,” Kirsten says, rallying against the dour aesthetics of live electronica. “because, ultimately, I’m interested in entertainment. I wouldn’t like to think that we’re bogged down in sonic details because although that’s a really interesting aspect of it, ultimately, it’s a daft idea that outgrew its area of operation.”
WE CALL IT…
An utterly engrosing spectacle, especially when they blow up the decks with their rocket powered singles. Musically, they conjure up an all engulfing maelstrom, tempered with moments of serenity. At a recent performance, one of the audience sported a badge that read: “I Love F***ed Up Noise”. Indeed.
THEY CALL IT…
They will call it experimental, if you give them a hefty push. Basically, they tease out the essential sound from each non vinyl artefact, treat it and then sample it into loops which forms the basis of their vinyl releases. Live they don’t play records, as such, but use artefacts and decks as instruments to be manipulated. For the record, Perspex makes “a weird swooping sound,” while a biscuit is like an Abba record, apparently, “It’s got an A-side and a B-side,” Kirsten explains, “It’s got a highly modular rhythmic side which can be quite energetic, but the B-sides’ flatter, so you get a slow ballad or something. Obviously, it’s not like that exactly, but there’s an analogy that works in those ways.”
“The crowds are definitely increasing,” confirms Kirsten. “Quite why they are is another matter. It’s not like everyone’s going, ‘My favourite tune you do is this one.’ Some people are intrigued by the extremity of the fact that you can make noises out of these things, other people just wanna see shit blown up.”
Less explosive, but equally intriguing is “Excited By Gramophones”, vinyl collection of non-vinyl treats, that will whet appetites in more ways that
one. Meanwhile, Project Dark are working on the logistics of producing a frozen single, like you do.
Melody Maker 30 October 1998
Excited By Gramophones Volume 4
INVISIBLE RECORDS INVSX7002 CD
Forget vinyl, what about the sonic properties of cheese? Project Dark‘s limited edition 7″ singles were manufactured from preposterous materials – white bread, Edam cheese, hair, Brazillian glasspaper, steel, and so on. This reluctant CD – a sleevenote regrets the use of this format – treats the contents of their entire singles back catalogue as source material. The music’s aesthetic is best summed up by the image on the back of the CD – an exploding turntable.
Though drum patterns are used on some tracks, most of the music is concerned with manipulations of rough sound. The album begins with the noise of a firework rocket and moves into a succession of succinct and bristly sound pieces, covering a wide range of colours, and fascinated with the blurring into noise. However, only the minute long “Jake’s Drawing” is really committed to the (familiar) territory of howling, electric viscera tweaking. The rest depends more on the often ragged sound textures of the source material. The longest, the eight minute “Spongers”, moves from calm drift into a drum’n’bass sequence overlaid with a rasping, hooting sound and towards the end, explosions. This is where the strengths of the music come across most forcefully, when Project Dark are not tied up with dull art terrorist posturing and steer well clear of whimsy. On four of the best tracks, the Project Dark nucleus – Ashley Davies, Kirsten Reynolds and Tony Pattinson – is augmented by Dub Colossus of Transglobal Underground. (Elsewhere collaborators include artist/Headcoat Billy Childish). For all the noise input, the music works best through playfulness Low-cal avant garde, for sure, but somehow, with near zero gravitas and a lurking pop sensibility. It’s diverting stuff. But it’s a more wholesome racket than they’d like it to be.
The Wire, November 1998