I’ve been a bit surprised by the recent output of Jaap Blonk, perhaps the most striking and original sound poet working during the last few decades. He established himself with a mind-boggling catalog of extreme vocal techniques, whether mastering Ursonate, the classic Dadaist text by Kurt Schwitters; or developing a massive vocabulary of whinnies, howls, sibilant explosions; or virtually creating a library of invented sounds and languages. But on the new August Ananke and the 2013 album Lifespans (both released on his Kontrans imprint) his voice is nowhere to be heard—the former is an electronic collection of “eight meditations on just intonation” (you can hear the opening track, “Ataraxia,” below) and the latter, while based on some speech fragment transformed and processed through Blonk’s own computer software, arrives as a relentless blast of harsh noise that could please Merzbow fans.
Blonk returns to town this week—he performs Wednesday at Constellation—for the first time in three years, and as interesting as those electronic recordings have been, I’m happy to report that he’ll be opening his big mouth on this visit. His performance will revisit material from his bracing 2014 album Songs of Little Sleep, which combines his voice with electronics to, in the words of the artist, offer “a disturbingly engaging collection of songs on the topic of insomnia.” Many of these pieces could certainly keep certain listeners up at night, although I’m not entirely sure how these relate to sleeplessness—unless it’s in characterizing the nightmarish quality of extended wakefulness. “Somnambulance,” for example, layers queasy-sounding long tones and curdled squiggles played on a synthesizer with an electronically manipulated repetition of a kind of hellish, guttural yelp, endlessly transformed. “Apnea Therapy” sounds less like a solution to the title condition than a recording of it, with snorelike utterances building into multiple layers of manic howls, yelps, and cries of anguish and fright. Check it out below.
Hildur Gudnadóttir, Saman (Touch)
Bill Seaman & John Supko, s-traits (Cotton Goods)
Tony Allen, Film of Life (Jazz Village)
Lisa Batiashvili, Bach (Deutsche Grammophone)
Sarah Manning, Harmonious Creature (Posi-Tone)