Hub-Capped Diamond Studded Halo
Kaffe Matthews’ performances have flirted with the unpredictability of these kinds of live situations for a while. Using live, recorded sounds rather than a pre-recorded stock of samples, each of her performances is very specifically tied to a place. Using software called LiSa (which stands for live sampling), she’ll gradually incorporate and treat sounds from the environment with those from her wired-up violin.The tranquillity with which she improvises is amazing. Nothing like the kind of “horror vacui” such an open situation could inspire, more a wry amusement at the sounds that arrive out of nowhere and then disappear. Each one suggests new narratives, action or atmospheres which, like a sensitive and skilful medium, she either gives a voice or patiently muffles.
Mute- Issue 7
RUDE MECHANIC : Beaconsfield, london, UK
The new Annette Works label exists to showcase music combining improvisition and electronics, and Kaffe Matthews is a splendid musician to start with. The pieces on CD Ann combine solo violin with a flexible live sampling system and the sounds of the performance environment (a church, a shed, or a bedroom) Kaffe’s violin is a very successful when looped and layered against crackling ambient noise, and she obviously has a discerning and curious ear for sound. The less successful pieces are those where the violin itself disappears from hearing, since it’s the pleasantly puzzling contrast between instrumental and non-musical sound that really entices.
Kaffe Matthews is the Pope of the virtual violin – one hand on the fiddle, the other on the Power Macintosh. But on the evidence of this stunning CD, we should think of her less as a violinist and more as a producer of seething improvised electronica. Last year Matthews played on David Toop’s “Pink Noir” album, and her concerns are not to far away from Toop’s haunted dreamscapes. More grit and dirt in Matthews’ pallette however, and the material is all recorded live. Matthews emphasizes the “here and now” quality of the music by always setting up a hidden microphone in the venue, contributing a wild-card non-musical element and ensuring the overall sound is not simply electronic. On track one, for example, we hear the sound of Paul Burwell cooking.
Within the past year Matthews has completely revised her technical setup: out go the prerecorded samples and Jackson Five tapes, in comes the “LiSa” system, designed at STEIM in Amsterdam by Frank Balde and Michelle Waisvisz. The violin is both trigger and sound source- the physical act of playing the violin remains central to Matthews’ performance, but there is very little recognisable left in the music.
Unlike the horrible drivel coming from the hi-tech hyperviolas and hypercellos in Tod Machover’s heavily bankrolled US projects, Matthews fortunately has plenty of ideas and a sturdy contemporary musicality. Matthews moves fluently from intoxicating racket to delicate lyricism, offering both a search for beauty and fuzz guitar sounds. The core of the album is “To Manson 13”, a barnstorming set of ten pieces taken from a Saturday afternoon concert at London’s 2:13 Club. You can easily lose yourself in these rollicking sonic jungles.
by Clive Bell