Sugarm and Ron Tubman bring us to their laboratories on the east coast for volume three of the Mugen series. Each of their solo sessions demonstrates a symbiosis of hands-on performance and reactive electronic processes – a man in congress with the machines.
On “Cloud Cover While Rafting the Chorna,” Ron Tubman (Aeron Small) ropes drifting low-end washes, Takoma-style fingerpicking, and jazz-derived chord structures into an electric guitar take that serves as the controlling input of his Eurorack modular synthesizer rig. As Aeron’s six-string improvisation branches into new melodic territories, the synth burgeons from a filtered hum into a detailed droning backdrop. The sequence module kicks in and gurgling arpeggios flood the mix until the two instruments conflate into a thrilling climax: the sound of one musician performing as an organic live duo with himself. When Aeron isn’t composing in experimental studio ensemble The Big Ship in his Chicago homeland, or woodshedding his guitar technique for solo and trio jazz performances, he studies medicine at UPenn. The ability of his brain and body to excel at all of these disciplines simultaneously cannot be explained by science as we know it. I think it’s up to Ron to apply his doctorly tactics to himself and figure out what makes him so golden, as this information could accelerate mankind into the next evolutionary stage.
For his side of the split, Sugarm (Mike Sugarman) turns in two hulking slabs of noise viscera, each capturing a live attempt to splinter a sound source into oblivion through extended repetition and digital processing. “500 Dollars,” recorded live at Union Pool in Brooklyn, finds Mike drawing tones from a theremin and bending them into a torturous howl. The session creeps along in an ominous lull, airing the chatter of the unsuspecting Brooklynites in attendance before escalating into a series of intensifying upper-register bursts that fully consume the environment. “Skinjob,” recorded live in Mike’s former Bushwick apartment, abuses high and low frequencies to create a truly jarring listening experience, as a sampled vocal phrase spirals through concentric feedback loops and delay units. Mike’s processes render his sound source more and more inhuman as searing shrieks and scuzzed-out distortion overtake the mix. Both sessions showcase a musician capable of tapping into a performative mindset at once calculating and primal, nullifying any trace of discernible “human” input while exploiting technology to deranged, fascinating ends.
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