What would be your soundtrack for space?

Here is an answer, from three female artists who made a field trip to Houston, Texas and took two years to construct this response.

We are three people who make work from our surroundings. We chose space because it’s the ultimate surrounding and because we love the glamour of  human attempts to navigate it. Our work is made from samples and improvisations, visually and sonically. We interviewed astronauts, hung out with a mission controller, a rocket scientist, and spent a long time on line gathering raw stuff.

When interviewed, all the astronauts at different moments apologised for a lack of poetry in their accounts of what the experience of space travel meant to them existentially. They distinctly described themselves as not being artists or poets.

Do they need to be?  Do we require anyone to articulate space for us? Or is it simply enough to see and hear it remotely?   Our work is impressionistic sonic cartoons driven by the enthusiasm many human beings feel for space ventures.  Made in episodes, because that was how we managed to collaborate over time and distance, each piece grew like a  crystal. We made them and then had to put them together in a click response environment. The site works like a form of archival space related television, but some of it is an instrument you can play.

Like astronauts we constantly had to endure weight allowances,  so file sizes are optimized and lean but they still might take some minutes of your time to appear.

In contrast to the digital aesthetics of the net we also  made this vinyl picture disk as a work mate to the site. It rocks. It’s also annette works first collaboration and first vinyl release.

Oh, you might also like to know some of the questions we asked the astronauts ……

What does it sound like, going there, being there, coming home?

What music did you take with you to listen to when you were not working?

Each astronaut is selected from eight thousand candidates within the fields of science and the military. We were curious about who these people might be and thought that discovering the music they liked, would reveal something about them. Their responses actually revealed more about their chosen occupation. Astronauts have very little time up there to listen to anything recreationally, they snatch glimpses of earth from the window while they eat some lunch between heavy science schedules, maintenance and engineering. Their life support systems create a constant ambience of around 70 decibels, which NASA have recognised as officially unhealthy and damaging to astronauts hearing in the long term.

The most specific responses to the question of what music did you take to space included Joan Baez and Johnny Cash, the American Airlines Easy Listening Classical compilation, Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D and none.  One small token of musical respite actually comes from Mission Control to wake astronauts up in the morning. Each crew member’s family are permitted to select a piece of music which is transmitted from ground to space. We were listening to Columbia’s wake up interactions before the accident and made a piece from it. We also sampled the jukebox in the official NASA local, made an astronaut dream at 70 decibels, improvised around ideas on internal/external spaces, on nothing(there is no sound that we human animals can hear in space of course) and with live electronic activity from space transmitted via huge radios, and were so inspired by the hairdos zero gravity creates  that we made hair instruments. And more.

Basically we played with the areas that most intrigued us. You’ll hear some of them on this album and get even more  from http://www.weightlessanimals.com


Weightless Animals review – Diffusion, Sonic Arts Network, September 2004 – by Justin Wiggan.

Weightless Animals (12 ” picture disk) is the first vinyl project release from a collaboration of 3 artists. Zoologist, shopkeeper and electronic gadget hex Kaffe Matthews, BAFTA nominee film-maker Mandy McIntosh, and electric harp pioneer and Bjork collaborator Zeena Parkins.

This is the accompaniment to the beautifully constructed website www.weightlessanimals.com. A website of interactive sonic space cartoons selected from two years of work following a research trip to NASA,Texas in 2002 armed with question for the NASA staff like “What would be your soundtrack for space?”

The raw research (Columbia’s wake up music transmitted from mission control, samples from the official NASA jukebox, live electronic activity from space transmitted from huge radios and even the inspiration of zero gravity hair styles!) was forged together to make a stunning and engaging body of work.

The opening track ‘Locating’ is a non-human vacuum with surges of a broken hearted pulse from a minimal keyboard drone. The static from the vinyl itself only makes the piece seem more desperate and distant. ‘Humans Are Here‘ splatters a disjointed honky-tonk piano with a rave crowd crushed by stars in blink-sized chunks as if the void is claiming back human attempts at knowing their own creator.

The fear of human loneliness expanded on with ‘Scary Landlady’, David Keen’s slide guitar sounds like our collective cries lost in the heavens ignored by stars and angels alike. ‘Still Here’ seems to replicate the meeting point of a dictaphone that has been thrown into a red shift. The abstract thought of humans sending their own species up there is summed up on the vinyl’s last track the sublime and dream like ‘Wake Up Crew‘ – made up from transmissions from mission control.

As a piece of work it addresses some key cultural questions. Why are we investigating a void when we do not understand our own hearts ?  This female perspective and their incredible use of sound deconstructs the yearning of men to dominate space, the vanity of nothingness chased by millions of dollars of investment. Boys with toys.

We are not able to hear in space but this trio have presented an answer, a soundtrack that mirrors mans empty heart. One of the most challenging gauntlets to be thrown down between the sexes in the creative and cultural community in a long time and one that will take a longtime to answer.

Review by Justin Wiggan at



Justin Wiggan is a phonic artist who works with Dreams Of Tall Buildings, robotti nu se pot ruga and as Geography of Nowhere.

Interview with Anthony Huberman

Fall 2004. BOMB issue no.89.

AH: Let’s begin with your gradual move from working with the violin toward working with computers and software. What prompted that? What is it about the computer-as-instrument that encouraged you to leave the violin behind?

KM: If I had just pursued the violin and not discovered electronics, I wouldn’t be in the game of being a musician. It wasn’t an ambition. I’m only in it because I discovered what you could do using electronics and computers.

AH: You never aspired to be a career violinist?

KM: No. Well, I was completely passionate about the violin when I began. At six or seven years of age, I’d get up dead early before school and play. I was crazy about playing, but I didn’t pursue music any further than that. I was going to do medicine. Music was something you did as a hobby unless you were some kind of superkid.

AH: Those damn superkids…

KM: I got into playing music again in my early 20s and realized then that I’d never really listened to anything I’d ever done. That was when it all really started, when I actually discovered music as something to be made rather than something to be performed by somebody else. I played in a band for about four years and when the band split, quite by chance I got a job in this acid house studio and discovered samplers and mixing disks and electronics. What immediately thrilled me was that the sampler allowed you to make music without having to labor over it for hours every day, which was what I’d been used to doing. At the same time of course I felt like I’d started so late. I would practice for hours every day feeling like I had loads of ground to catch up on. I began playing a violin with a MIDI trigger, so that I was able to play samples from the violin. I was finding the sounds that I’d been asking my feeble hands and slow brain to mimic. Working with electronics, you can work with sounds that are outside the traditional paradigm of music. You’re able to work with texture and density, color and shape—the size of the sound. Melodic and rhythmic concerns disappear.

AH: So discovering the computer made it seem as if all of a sudden these sounds were something you could own? Something you could impress your personality upon?

KM: No, it’s funny you should say that. One of the big attractions about working with a computer was that the machine would crash, or it would do things and make sounds I would never have imagined on my own, which were often the most interesting things. And these were not sounds that I owned or that were a product of my toil, but simply material I could use, more like in a collaboration. The computer often had good ideas.

AH: Well, the computer itself doesn’t have ideas. . . . I mean you’re still the one who is deciding that the computer did a good thing or a bad thing. There’s a certain amount of agency there. Although, control or loss of control seems to be central to your notion of improvisation.

KM: Sure, but suddenly it wasn’t just about me and my ability and my ego. It was about collaborating with this instrument that could produce stuff. And that continues to be why I work with machines. The fear that a classical musician has about not being good enough just disappears because it’s not about that anymore. Working with electronics, you have complete access to sound. It’s possible to work with music in a way that you just cannot do with your technique and spirit alone. You can break sound down to almost nothing, or you can multiply it to full-on noise, and everything in between. And there’s a phenomenal amount of control possible.

AH: The way you can zoom in on the tiniest of wave-forms and tweak or adjust them.

KM: And then repeat them. Hence dance music. The best and the most brilliant drummer couldn’t do what a drum machine or what a loop will do. In a traditional approach to music, you have to develop a very strong technique to be able to produce and accurately repeat notes. You have to know that the slightest movement of your finger will alter the sound, which is also about control. And I had taken all of that baggage into my approach toward electronics. It took me quite a while to realize that hanging on to this kind of ferocious control was missing the point. I started putting the machine in situations where it was going to produce sounds that I wasn’t thinking of.

AH: What is it, exactly, that you’ve set up through your software?

KM: I began using the LiSa software in 1996. I’ve built this digital moving framework into which I can suck and pull and push sounds that I gather in real-time from the space I’m playing in. Every
movement of mine will do something very powerful to the music, and I decide what to accept and what not to. The program is like an adjustable matrix, a movable frame where all sides are hinged and can be made smaller or larger. It’s like riding a horse. Really, I’m working with this very fragile human boundary between success and failure. One minute you’re walking along and everything is breezy and beautiful and the next minute it’s a bloody disaster.

AH: Which is what ties you to the tradition of improvised music. Recorded or pre-recorded music is something that has already happened and an audience listens to it happening again. You, on the other hand, arrive at the performance with an empty hard-drive? The sound sources are all gathered on-site, at that moment, and you have to make decisions about adjusting and re-adjusting the software depending on what it does to the sounds?

KM: Exactly. That is actually how I make music, it’s about all of it happening in the now. I am using this moment. After all, that is all there is. So what happens when we make music out of it?

AH: What about your projects that seem to take as their subject this very idea of improvising with real-time data. Weather Made, for example, involved gathering data through flying kites.

KM: In those projects I put myself in a situation where I can be a shifting framework through which the music can happen. Weather Made used the weather to make decisions that I would normally make, based on data that was coming from a huge kite that the team of artists I was working with flew. We had 12 streams of data based on changes in the wind speed and direction, brightness, red light, blue light, ultraviolet light, infrared, all pouring from the kite, 100 feet in the air, directly into computers on the top of a hill on this uninhabited Scottish island. Essentially I was asking the weather to decide how the matrix should move and therefore what the music would end up being. I worked with the software quite a bit to make it work in a way that made the most of what the weather might do. There was also a solar eclipse that summer. We went and flew the kites and then the sun went dark.

AH: So there’s a document of this environmental moment as captured through what it sounded like?

KM: Yes. Another project I did working with external systems was in the bush in Australia with doctor and composer Alan Lamb in 1999, where we recorded the music made by 200-meter-long stretched wires. It was like fishing, you waited all day with headphones plugged into the tiny contact mikes on the wires, listening to them humming until finally, in a combination of the wires’ length and temperature with the resonance of the earth, they started to resonate. The music that it made was like some awesome electronic choir. This was the beginning of my work with other systems other than myself to make the music.

AH: It seems that these systems describe distinct places. It can be Senegal or Australia, or a particular room in a particular building. Whether it’s taking samples of room sounds in real-time during your performance or seeking out non-traditional venues to perform in, there is an interest in the site-specific. How is it that place grew to become such a central component of the way you think about sound?

KM: What’s interesting is that it doesn’t matter so much what specific place I am in when I perform. So it’s site-specific in another kind of way. Very simply, because I am using samples gathered from the site itself, I’m going to use the software and guide the sounds differently in different spaces. For example, in February I did one of the hardest gigs of my life, well, almost as hard as laptops in a desert with Alan Lamb. . . I was in a dark cellar three floors underground in an abandoned brewery in Berlin, having to play to a bussed-in audience for four straight nights. There was snow on the ground outside, it was dripping and wet and completely pitch black. There were cat skeletons, it was pretty spooky. But I got super into it, wore skiing clothes and thermal pants. Once I got used to the feel of the place, I realized that we could make amazing music.

AH: Did you play in the middle of the space? Each time I’ve seen you perform, you have avoided the stage. Or you recently played in a friend’s tiny East Village apartment, where proximity between performer and audience was not even a choice.

KM: I wanted to come down off the stage. When I’d been playing violin, people had looked at me as if they were watching this performing monkey: Oh God, look at that girl with the violin and all that technology! All I wanted was for people to turn their eyes off and get down to some listening. “No, there’s nothing to watch here!” It’s also about experiencing sound in a space. I need to be in the middle of the space because I play quadraphonically and am moving and dismembering these new sounds around the room, working with feedback, the acoustics, searching out the resonant frequencies. Simply put, I need to hear what I’m doing.

AH: You once told me that you went through a period when you were having doubts about performing, or the logic of the “performance” in general. But you need performance because your music happens in real time. You need people to witness that happening.

KM: Yes, that’s how I make music. The combination of that time and that space with those people. Though having said that, I did have a great gig alone in the studio this afternoon.

AH: So what is the relationship between how you approach performing, which is so much about that particular place at that particular time, with how you approach making a record?

KM: Ah that’s interesting. I listen to the recordings I have of the live shows and say this is great, this is terrible. My first four CDs were pretty much all performances with some bits edited out.

AH: I’m looking at your album cd dd, which says, “converting live things in situ from Italy, Belgium and Scotland.”

KM: Each CD progressively became more and more edited in the studio. Two years after dd, came cd eb and flo, where I let go of the violin completely and was using the theremin as the sound source, along with recordings of bits from lots of different gigs. I pulled them all together in the studio. It’s much more post-event structured than the other records.

AH: It sounds like gathering data from field research. You travel and perform in these disparate places and compose a sonic map of sorts, of how these sites shape your sound material.

KM: Essentially a recording has to stand up on its own as a piece of music. Performing has to do with communicating with people. I now think that people need to see somebody physically involved in what they’re making to actually grasp its essence.

AH: Which is interesting in light of all the discussions around laptop performances and how there’s nothing to look at.

KM: It’s funny because for a few years I’d been going, “Don’t watch me, shut your eyes and listen. There’s nothing to watch.” But everybody does watch me. Well, a lot of people do. And I’m always saying that there’s nothing to watch and gradually I’ve learned that there is. They watch my face. They watch me get surprised, fed up, angry and then excited. They stand over my shoulder and watch my computer screen. It all actually gives them a way into what’s going on.

AH: That link to the audience is not often heard in discussions around laptop music. Or it’s discussed, but certainly not resolved. I’m interested in the way your approach to music works within the performance interface we’re used to. A performance is something very linked to time in the sense of a beginning, middle and end. And your work with music or with the weather is not linked to beginning, middle and end—it’s not tied to a linear structure at all, and yet, it’s all about performing it. And unlike sound installations in museums that people enter and exit over the course of two months, in your work, sound is not just space, it’s a moment in space. You capture the sound of a particular place at a particular time and give it a shape of some kind. And then you stop giving it a shape, you let go and you end the performance. And yet you let the space, and the sounds in the space, continue on their own.

KM: I have played with duration in that same way. But for me, music is not about left to right or linear movement through time. In fact that’s one thing that people often say to me after gig, that they have no idea how long it was.

AH: That’s exactly what I remember thinking, each time I have seen you perform. There is a physicality to the sound that confuses or hides its link to time. In fact, the word sculpting comes up often in interviews that you’ve given. And then there are the theater and dance projects that you’ve done. How do you see your relationship to visual art?

KM: Sound is very much a physical material for me. I actually need to get a hold of it to do anything. So it’s about wanting to be able to work not just with time and space, but with shape. Shape is what I work with in music all the time: texture, density, size, absence, the location and division of sound, where and how it is in the room. Something I used to do a lot was to write down what I was hearing in order to understand life through auditory perception. You listen in a different way.

AH: It also makes me think about your close link to architecture. As sound moves around a room, it’s almost as if your eye is following an object being tossed around. There is this visual trajectory that you go through.

KM: It’s completely about that. In fact, I’m just starting to talk to an architect who is also a sound artist.

AH: You’re talking about doing something together?

KM: We are. There’s also a video artist that I’m talking with at the moment because he’s drawing with light in real time.

AH: Collaboration is a big topic for you. You have done many, with musicians such as Eliane Radigue, MIMEO, Sachiko M, Zeena Parkins, the lappetites, as well as non-musicians. What leads you to collaborate? Or is it precisely because you don’t know what the effect will be that you feel drawn to work with others?

KM: One of the reasons for collaborating, especially with non-musicians, is because I will invariably be asked to do things that I wouldn’t do on my own, and it will push me in directions that I wouldn’t go on my own. In the early days, I used to make a lot of music with experimental theater companies. Dance, also, was one of the first things I started to work with, because dance works with motion, and dancers make shape and dynamics. Recently I did a project called Rock on a building site for a new medical research center with the choreographer Claire Russ. I hadn’t worked with a choreographer for about four years. We made a performance for the laying of the center’s foundation stone with dancers and a quad PA on the construction site. It was fantastic to play this music there, some of which I’d made out of sounds I’d processed from the construction site and some were more my response to the architectural drawings, which really looked like the set for Logan’s Run, a super technicolored ’70s science-fiction kind of thing. At night, the site was floodlit, and we had all these dancers running around to new music pounding out from the building site in the heart of London’s East End.

AH: What about your attraction to working with non-artists? Like the astronauts you recently worked with for Weightless Animals?

KM: Well, the astronauts were the source material really, not the collaborators. Essentially that collaboration was with a visual artist, Mandy McIntosh, and a musician, Zeena Parkins. The actual idea for choosing space as the topic was Mandy’s. And also, while working in the desert back in 1999, I got the sensation of the earth as this floating chunk of rock, and of course the kite project took me into the atmosphere as well. For Weightless Animals, we were researching the sonic experience of travelling into space. We asked astronauts, “What would be your soundtrack for space?” What they said was generally pretty disappointing.

AH: No Kaffe Matthews?

KM: (laughter) No, I mean, they weren’t even wanting to listen to, you know, Hendrix, or anything like really rock. They’d have a little bit of light classical, or Joan Baez or John Denver. But, there was one guy who looked me straight in the face and said, “Ravel’s Piano Concerto in D for the Left Hand.” So I got hold of a copy and mashed it up. Zeena got quite interested in the sound of your own breathing and the sensation of being inside a helmet, against this vast exterior space.

AH: Enclosure versus complete vastness.

KM: Yes. I mean, one thing that I was grappling with all the time was the fact that it’s a vacuum up there. Sound can’t exist because there’s no air. I was just trying to get my head around that idea. Of course, they’ve got massive air-conditioning systems in those space stations, you’ve got constant ground-control chit-chat, and it’s bloody noisy in your helmet all the time. But space is full of electrical activity. So I tuned into the huge radio receivers that are all over the world, largely in America actually, that are picking up this electrical activity in space and transforming it into sound and transmitting it on the net for anyone to listen to. That was more source material too.

AH: That brings up radio and one of my projects of yours, Radio Cycle.

KM: One of my favourites too right now.yes. Last summer I received a public art commission. I wanted to make a mobile radio station. I got dead excited about being able to work within the actual physical vicinity of my own neighbourhood. I wanted to make music that could just be quietly played and make traces passing through the streets. Also, for residents to be able to make music for this station as well as broadcast their own ideas, views, recipes, religions, gossip, the music they wanted to hear.

AH: And then it grew into an actual piece traveling through the streets of London.

KM: Yes. It dawned on me that a radio is really a mobile stage, and that what I really wanted to do was write pieces that I would broadcast on the Radio Cycle frequency, and have the music picked up by radios attached to bicycles being cycled through a particular series of streets. The score is actually a map, a journey taken through this particular neighborhood, and the audience would not necessarily know what they were witnessing. All it would involve would be choreographing the cyclists carrying the radios while the piece was being broadcast.

AH: The idea of duration comes back again. The objective of being able to hear the whole thing is turned obsolete. You can’t hear the whole thing.

KM: No, you can’t. But my motivation is never about forcing music onto people anyway. Even in my performances I don’t want to bombard the audience with sound. I’m more into using sound as an instrument to maybe increase awareness or something. To work quietly, more minimally, and give people a chance to be aware about the act of listening. Radio Cycle was a development of that. People might hear little pieces of music fly by them on the street and say, “What? Did I hear that?” and then of course they might hear it on the radio in their kitchen.

AH: Passers by become the audience and the audience become passers by.

KM: And then they might just happen to spend some of that day listening to the descending repetitions of sirens or to the air conditioner, or to the planes flying over.

AH: I’ve found myself recently becoming increasingly involved and interested in radio. What do you think of radio, in general?

KM: Radio as a whole is a means of communicating; its power is astonishing. [Radio is about the vibrations of molecules. It happens in the air. And that is what my music is about in general, it’s about hearing the air.] So radio has begun to play an increasingly important role in my work.

AH: And London has a fantastic art-radio station, Resonance FM.

KM: London life has really changed for a lot of people since Resonance FM started. Four years ago, I was saying to people, London sucks, I never play here, there are no other laptop improvisers. But there’s also recently been an influx of young people from other countries with heaps of ideas and energy.

AH: Which has created enough momentum for it to feel like a community?

KM: Yes. Because London is so big and spread out geographically. People are all over the place. So there were lots of little pockets of activity here and there. I think that Resonance is playing an important role in bringing together this sense of disparate activity and of course the huge array of musical styles going on. The visual arts community has had a strong, studio-led practice, where there are little galleries happening in small spaces. But the music kids, we haven’t had similar setups, and we don’t have a Tonic in London, like you guys have in New York. But now this is changing. There are lots of squat-based activities with new networks and really high standards of work, plus this new sense of community created through the radio.

AH: You’re interested in audience and this back-and-forth between someone who’s providing or shaping sound and someone who is listening. Through performance, working with communities, and then through radio, your music really seems to act for you as a way to get people to see each other, recognize each other.

KM: Yeah, I think it’s simply because I’m interested in a listening awareness. It’s a whole different world when you’re really listening. At the core, that’s what it’s about, turning people on to doing that.

AH: Well, there are also formal experiments in sound-as-material going on, such as your interest in digital failures and in the architecture of sound. And the emphasis you give to space and to real-time and to performance leads you to invest yourself in an audience. This idea of letting people witness the music being made rather than isolating yourself in the studio for 10 years, crafting some object really delicately.

KM: Yes, it’s funny. I spend years or months or hours in my studio, building these instruments that I then wheel out and compose on with people there listening.

AH: I would love to hear about what things that you’d like to do but haven’t found a way to do yet, some unrealized projects that are lingering in your mind?

KM: WELL, essential current projects aside – making an opera with the lappetites and another piece of sonic furniture on the way – a new idea is to structure and compose a score to be played by networked computers spread over London based on a Mayan architectural practice. I’m just starting to research it with wireless producer Ilze Black.

AH: So are you actually writing musical notes for computers spread around the city to play?

KM: No, it will be another moveable matrix that expands over the city. A big, shifting framework that exists as a three-dimensional map, and there will be different people in different pockets of it. I’m not going to tell them exactly what to do. They will be asked to deal with a certain phonic situation at a certain time. Essentially we’re going to construct this great sonic building together. My Mexico trip is going to feed into this. I’m making a public sound installation in Mexico City as part of a major sound exhibition there in February. I think they’re commissioning 24 artists. I am to make a piece that will be broadcast from a sound system at an intersection. As we all know, Mexico City intersections are the most hideous, noisy places in the world. Our job is to convert these crossroads into places of beauty.

AH: Well, Max Neuhaus dealt with Times Square, but yeah, that’s a challenge. But I think that your work makes it clear that no place is the wrong place for music.

KM: I just had a really interesting experience in Seattle where I think I experienced cyberspace for the first time in my life.

AH: Cyberspace . . . sonically?

KM: Well, being in the desert I experienced vibration. In Seattle I experienced cyberspace simply because you can go anywhere, sit in any café with your laptop and your wireless card, go online for free, anywhere. Anywhere! It’s incredible. I would sit for hours in a café, talking to people in Japan and Germany and doing work, looking online.

AH: The sense of place that you are so interested in, it’s completely disappeared.

KM: Exactly. I had never had this experience before in my life. I felt, God, I’ve just experienced cyberspace. I’ve been in this place where I could access any information I wanted, I could talk to anybody that I wanted . . . all the information that I wanted I could get hold of and I was just in this place. And I suddenly felt it, location doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where you are, there is this ball of space that’s full of information and you can go in there and get anything, and that’s where I was.

The Magnificent Weightless Animals (Patrick Bruneel)

The Weightless Animals’ picture disk is part of their similar website, and has also been created by improvisators Kaffe Mathews (London) and Zeena Parkins (NY), together with visual artist Mandy McIntosh (Glasgow). The intent was to investigate the sound experiences men and animals go through during a space travel.

These three ladies went to NASA headquarters (Houston, Texas) to question astronauts and flight controllers, as well as the common Houstonian, about what they felt would be the perfect soundtrack for space. Their global work consists of samples and improvisations, both visual and auditive. On the website, which definitely deserves a visit, you can find interactive impressionist space cartoons, each accompanied by their own little piece of music. Because of the size of these major files, and not every pc is sufficiently powerful to stream these sounds optimally, the most important pieces, nine on the whole, have been assembled on this disk.

The sounds consist of archived recordings of NASA, short interviews, and samples of the hangout’s jukebox of NASA personnel. Weird soundscapes peppered with the NASA staff pep talk, and the personal choices from the jukebox, result into an intoxicating piece of art, which matches perfectly the journey through the website. Weightless Animals proves the force of the Internet…

They are probably the first to bring out a record that completes a site.

By Patrick Bruneel. http://www.toeternitoe.be
(translated. av)

cd ebb+flo – Brian Morton (the Wire)

Annette works AWCD0005-6, 2 x cd

By Brian Morton.

cd eb + flo is Kaffe Matthews’s latest alphabeticised instalment after cd Ann, cd Bea, cd cécile, cd dd as well as the magnificent In Case of Fire Take the Stairs with Andrea Neumann and Sachiko M, which was released on IMU rather than Annette Works.

Anyway, here we are, 100-some minutes of live sampling and theremin processing in a variety of room feedbacks spread between London, Essex, Québec, Vienna and Perth (whether Scotland or Australia is not specified.) What’s still here is a delicacy of touch and sensitivity to the drama of duration which has marked all of Matthews’s works. She has no apparent interest in chasing down the creative potential of boredom, and none in creating trance environments in which the listener sits becalmed rather than entranced. Matthews allows no sound to last longer than seems natural, and manipulates transitions with an unforced sense of occasion that had me smiling spontaneously through the discs, even after several hearings of both.

What is lacking is some of the gentle tension and musical argument heard in her work with guitarist Andy Moor (aka Andy Ex) and in her astonishing trio album with Neumann and Sachiko that remains the pinnacle of Matthews’s recording career to date. All these pieces were “reconstructed at home”, and perhaps that is the problem with them, slight as the quibble is. They seem too gentle, too familiarly at hand, and at times slightly airless.

Better than almost anything else in this idiom in 2003 though.

cd ebb+flo – Urban magazine – 2003

KAFFE MATTHEWS, cd Eb + Flo(Annette Works/Mdos)
[reciprocess : +/vs.] vol. 2 (Bip-Hop/Lowlands)

Lichtjes panikerend stopten we de in lichtroze tinten gehulde dubbelaar in onze cd-lader. De liner notes beloofden immers ruim 100 minuten live sampling and processing a theremin, the room and its feedback in performance. En dat leek ons niet meteen de allerspannendste optie… Het album werd in 2002 opgenomen in Perth, Wenen, Essex, London en Quebec. Kaffe Matthews is natuurlijk niet de eerste de beste. Ze is één van de actiefste, vrouwelijke artiesten in de elektronicawereld en werkte sinds ’96 alleen of nauw samen met onder meer Andy Moor van The Ex, Zeena Parkins, AGF, Mimeo, Sachiko M, Fennesz, Ikue Mori en tal van anderen. Op haar eigen label Annette Works bracht ze tot nu toe een vijftal solo-cd’s uit met een eigenzinnig kristalhelder en minimaal digitaal geluid met een organische bijklank. cd eb + flo is de zesde in de reeks. Bij nader inzien valt het allemaal best mee. Je moet hier als luisteraar natuurlijk wel voor open staan. Maar er zit genoeg variatie in de twee cd’s om je te blijven boeien. De eerste cd ‘eb’ begint vrij etherisch met het ijle geluid van een theremin en de manipulatie van gevonden objecten. Vanaf de tracks ‘she could’ en ‘get out more’ krijgt het geluid van Matthews een snerpende en hardere technoïde bijklank. Op het rustige ‘hallo vera’, het zacht zoemende ‘for mama’ en het kristalheldere ‘7 inches of glass’ wordt het geluidsniveau teruggeschroefd en worden onze oren gesmeerd met een warme en zacht zoemende stroom van ambientgeluiden. Het fragmentarische ‘some potential’ is de interessantste track van de eerste cd. Matthews speelt hier met het bevattingsvermogen van de luisteraar. Variatie en stilte, hoge en lage frequenties wisselen elkaar gedurende negen minuten op een spannende manier af. We vlogen ook netjes en vlotjes doorheen de tweede cd ‘flo’. Matthews volgt hier nagenoeg hetzelfde procédé als op de eerste cd. Warmbloedige en minimale tracks als ‘much room’, ‘corner’ en ‘mni’ refereren voor een stuk naar het werk van haar Japanse collega-muzikante Sachiko M, maar opvallend is dat Matthews meer variatie biedt in haar werk, wat het voor ons een stuk interessanter maakt. ‘in the dust’ en ‘dashes five’ bouwt ze bijna op naar een noisy finale. Net wanneer je denkt dat ze een structuur zal kneden uit de los aaneengeregen geluiden zet ze je echter op het verkeerde been. ‘in the dust’ dijt langzaam uit en gaat bijna ongemerkt over in de knetterende en deconstructieve nanoritmes van ‘chem trails’, dat meer dan een kwartier lang uit je boxen golft. Rustiger wateren zoekt ze op in de schemerzone van ‘boy with dog’ en het afsluitende ‘drop time’.

Aan het andere eind van het spectrum vinden we de alomtegenwoordige Douglas Benford en Stephan Mathieu, eveneens hyperactieve vertegenwoordigers van de experimentele elektronica. Reciprocess
+/vs. is een gloednieuwe reeks van samenwerkingsverbanden tussen verschillende artiesten, opgestart door het Franse experimentele label Bip_Hop in samenwerking met het Noord-Ierse Fällt. De eerste cd in de reeks bracht Komet samen met Bovine Life. Het tweede deel bundelt de krachten van Mathieu aka Full Swing met die van Benford alias Si-Cut.Db. Benford en Mathieu werken samen op zeven nummers. Mathieu neemt twee solotracks voor zijn rekening. Benford niet minder dan vier. Het resultaat is een boeiende confrontatie tussen deze twee coryfeëen van het elektronische experiment. Beide muzikanten hebben immers een totaal andere invalshoek. Mathieu staat eerder bekend om zijn minimale, compositorische musique concrète benadering. Als Si-Cut.Db maakt Benford al jaren experimentele techno met subtiele dubinvloeden. Het album start langzaam en statig met de korrelige sound van Mathieu aan zet. Het lijkt of de invloed van Benford doorheen de cd gaandeweg groeit. Vanaf ‘Jfm.Gen’ worden ook baslijnen, beats en ritmische invloeden geïntroduceerd. Glasheldere productie en schitterende opbouw ook op ‘Cond.verge’, dat knisperend van start gaat maar dan uitgroeit tot een wel heel erg originele dubby technotrack. ‘Chlorine.Gen’ daarentegen lijkt wel de soundtrack voor een brobbelend, chemisch bad. Zo’n samenwerking is altijd een dubbeltje op zijn kant maar de spanning wordt hoog gehouden op het dreigende en bijna orkestrale ‘Divpops.Stage’. Lichtvoetiger gaat het eraan toe op het dansbare ‘Medium.Lane.Gen’ en op het conventionele ‘Nearsighted.Gen’, twee solotracks van Benford. Op ‘Novecento.Avocado’ proberen de heren het tot algemene tevredenheid nog éénmaal samen met een wel heel aantrekkelijk resultaat: een onweerstaanbare dubbaslijn op een bed van knetterende, microscopische elektronica.

cd ebb+flo – prosieben.de – 2003

http://www.prosieben.de GERMANY

cd eb + flo – Kaffe Matthews

Ein Doppelalbum voller ungewöhnlicher Aspekte. Ungewöhnlich in der
Instrumentierung, ungewöhnlich in der Bearbeitung des Klangmaterials,
und es ist immer noch außergewöhnlich, dass eine Frau Musik
elektronischer Prägung als Autorin produziert. Zwar sollte man
glauben Debatten um Geschlechterrollen wären in diesem Kontext längst
überwunden, und mit starken Alben von Mira Calix und AGF wurde gerade
2003 bewiesen, dass prägende Werke in den Händen von visionären
Frauen liegen, dennoch gilt das Gros der Aufmerksamkeit den Männern
der Zunft.

Was Kaffe Matthews Werk ebenfalls besonders auszeichnet ist der hohe
Abstraktionsgrad der Kompositionen. Lineare Strukturen, oder gar
Muster wie Strophen, werden zu Gunsten von Klang und dessen Fluss
verworfen. Den Stücken ist nicht eine konkrete Emotionalität, wie
traurig oder fröhlich zugeordnet, sondern Sounds verdichten sich oder
schaffen Räume, fließen oder bleiben stehen, und geben das Erlebnis
des Hörens per se frei. Ob hochfrequent oder tieftönend, stets
schafft Kaffe Matthew eine Ordnung und Harmonie, so dass der
Spannungsbogen des einzelnen Titels für den Hörer nachvollziehbar
bleibt. Das gerade Gefühle direkt geweckt werden ist kein Widerspruch.

Eines der Ausgangsinstrumente ist die Theremin, ein elektronisches
Gerät, welches Schwingung der Luft, die zum Beispiel mit der Hand
erzeugt werden in elektrische Impulse umsetzt, die wiederum in Töne
verwandelt werden. Die hier entstehenden Klangwellen werden von der
britischen Künstlerin gesampelt und mittels digitaler Programme
bearbeitet. So entsteht konkretes Spielmaterial, welches nachträglich
mit der größten inhaltlichen Freiheit zu den finalen Kompositionen
verarbeitet wird. “cd eb+flo” ist inzwischen das sechste Album von
Kaffe Matthews, und ihre Kunst bleibt, Erfahrung nicht in Routine zu

Daher verwundert auch nicht, dass die Aufmerksamkeit über zwei
Albenlängen beständig herausgefordert wird, und man staunend ob der
klanglichen Kreationen seine Konzentration intensiviert. Wer Künstler
wie Christian Fennesz, Rioyi Ikeda oder SND zu schätzen weiß, der
wird Kaffe Matthew sicherlich schnell in sein Herz zu schließen
wissen. Neulinge finden in dieser Komposition des
Digital-Sound-Processing einen konkreten Wink für Entwicklungen von
Musik und Klang für die Zukunft. Und diese könnte nicht spannender

cd ebb+flo – touchingextremes.org 2003

KAFFE MATTHEWS – CD eb + flo (Annette Works)

Playing a theremin and “converting live things” is what Matthews does in
these reconstructions of performances held in various sites. Straight out of
my chest, I’ll say I felt a prominent “Alvin Lucier vibe” as soon as I
immerged myself in this not-so-easy listening. The best way to catch the
whole Kaffe Matthews’ frequency spectrum is either walking around the room
so that corners and obstacles help refracting and reverberating the
waveshapes and feedback layers all around your membranes. On the other hand,
wearing headphones will surely help defining the granular images encountered
during these 104+ minutes; sometimes you’re just forced stopping in your
tracks whatever your activity is at that very moment. Going from Eliane
Radigue-like warm, slightly undulating timbres to the borders of
grey-to-white noise in a low frequency galore, for sure Kaffe knows her way
to give a good refreshing to your well worn music making/listening concepts.


cd ebb+flo – South West German Radio – 2003

SUEDWESTRUNDFUNK (Southwest German Radio)
NOWJazz: Magazin
SWR2 Klangraum/23.00 Uhr
05.12.2003 59’50”
Reinhard Kager

SWR2 Klangraum: NOWJazz-Magazin, CD/Cut 37, ca. 15”. K: Wolfgang
Dauner, B: Wolfgang Mitterer. Sprecherin: Nicole Boguth, Tonträger
Nr.: 390-0743/Cut 037

MUSIK: Kaffe Matthews, “eb + flo”, Cut 2, bis 1’30”. I + K: Kaffe
Metthews, theremin. T: clean tone falling. Annette Works Awcd0005-6.

Feinste Klangtransformationen beim Live-Processing eines Theremin,
eines auf einem elektrischen Feld basierenden Instruments, das Kaffe
Matthews zu einer faszinierenden Raumexkursion beim Label Annette
Works nutzt.
Nicht minder beeindruckend, die Reflexionen die Robin Rimbaud alias
Scanner über “Warhols Surfaces” anstellt. Da wähnt man wirklich, die
grellen Farbflächen des amerikanischen Künstlers musikalisch
wiederzuentdecken, der durch gesampelte Sprachschnipsel auch selbst
präsent ist. Wenngleich wie aus der Konserve: “Tomato soup”.

cd ebb+flo – metamkine – 2003

kaffe matthews / cd eb + flo
[annette works/metamkine]

Collaboratrice de Fennesz ou d’Andy Moor (guitariste de The Ex), la londonienne Kaffe Matthews s’intéresse au son et à la façon dont il est perçu selon son dispositif de transmission et selon l’architecture du lieu d’écoute. Lors de ses concerts, sa musique est diffusée par huit haut-parleurs. Kaffe Matthews s’est notamment lancée, en compagnie de Zeena Parkins et de Mandy Mcintosh (!), dans le projet Weightless Animals, concept multiple (et complexe) qui tourne autour de la perception de l’environnement sonore dans l’espace et s’aide en cela de données recueillies par des scientifiques-spationautes, et qui devrait donner naissance à un dvd contenant les données d’un voyage intersidéral ! Ce cinquième témoignage de performances données par Kaffe Matthews prend la
forme d’un beau double cd (comme les précédents, chez Annette Works). Dans différentes villes (Vienne, Québec, Londres…), l’artiste a joué à l’aide d’un petit Theremin, un instrument qui se présente comme un boîtier électronique, muni de 2 antennes sensibles à la variation du champ électrique produit par le musicien. Avec la main droite, on fait varier un oscillateur commandant la fréquence et, avec la main gauche, on fait varier l’intensité sonore. Matthews a enregistré le theremin et, forcément en même temps, la réponse de la salle au signal émis, puis elle a tout retraité à la maison. Cd Eb + Flo présente ce travail sur une durée de 106 minutes. L’écoute en fait une expérience électro-acoustique qui dévoile le potentiel incroyable d’un instrument peu courant, mais aussi l’influence de la réponse acoustique d’une salle. A maintes reprises, les sons sont proprement hallucinants.