cd ebb+flo – Cracked – 2003


cd eb+flo (Awcd0005-6)

2xCD, Annette Works

Warning: art ! Kaffe Matthews is more of a performing artist than a musician, and the sounds she produces and which are documented on this double-CD are only a means to the end of opening the minds of the audience to a new sense of higher understanding of their senses, their experiences and their surroundings. If you want to file this CD as a minimalist, static ambient-CD, go ahead and do so, you’ll see for yourself, where you’ll end up with.

Don’t be misjudged by the title of these CDs – there is only minimal ebb and flow on these discs. Actually, most of the time this is music as static as it can get. Kaffe Matthews uses a theremin and the surroundings and implements available to her in live settings to produce a sound world that is filled with high-frequency walls, noises, interferences, some harsh rumblings and absolutely no beats or rhythms (unless you count the molecular holes in a sine-wave which our senses – trained on finding differences to work on – will interpret into some kind of variations). The titles “eb” and
“flo” mark the fifth and sixth CD in a series documenting her work in an alphanumerical fashion (starting with “Ann”, “Bea”, “cécilie” and “dd”). She has literally taken that world around the globe, playing in every kind of venue imaginable and dedicating her life and artistic work to the exploration of sounds.

The main outstanding feature about her minimalist soundscapes is an almost organic grace that fills every space that her work is filled with. She confronts her audience in with new experiences regarding their sense of hearing, also extending her pressure to the tactile and sensory abilities of the body of the listener, either by volume or by frequency. Yes, Kaffe Matthews is more of a building artist than a musician, and the theoretical framework – though not much or really put into words – is just as important to her releases than the sounds themselves. She has constructed sonic
furniture, extended her work into the area of visual arts. She is also a teacher for performance technology on one of the leading arts colleges in the UK.

Of course, it is possible, to reduce “eb+flo” to the purely auditive side. This will leave you with a record unlike every other record just the same. Frequency-manipulation, crackling hysteria, the sounds of thoughts and electrons, but within all the futuristic assemblage of consequent sound-production, Matthews still finds some place for humour, if not love. E.g. the track “For mama”, which features the chirping and chatting of birds, and what sound is there done by nature that is more friendly and peaceful than the sound of birds in front of the window? Or introducing sounds like water flowing – which has been used in audio-psychology a lot (and in new-age-music!) Matthews lets herself be driven by her surroundings very much. Having used the arbitrariness and randomness of the weather for sound-production, she has taken some more of the production into her own hands. Still, a lot of influencing factors are still outside of her responsibility and power – and shall remain so. The difference between playing a gallery, a warehouse, a boat or a tea-room, for instance. The fabric of the walls and the dynamics of the air, influencing the sound of the theremin.

I’d like to add at the end of this review, that it is not easy listening to this record. Some tracks are almost like a collection of sine-waves that start and stop at random, giving that little digital ping every time, with complete silence between them, which after some time becomes really nerve-wrecking. I can imagine, people getting sick and tired during shows, but also the opposite. Because at times she presents the most interesting sounds I have ever heard. Hard stuff, at the most progressive frontier of the avantgarde, this will make you listen to Aphex Twin as a relaxation.