INTERVIEWS / FEATURES
MAY 2019 • SOUND AMERICAN contribution to ‘Two Questions for Sound Practitioners’ piece by Jennie Gottschalk
JULY 2018 • NATIONAL SAWDUST LOG Review and Interview for Two Words LP
MAY 2018 • AVANT-GUARDIAN interview w/ crys cole & Oren Ambarchi
FEBRUARY 2018 • FFFoxy Podcast #114: crys cole feature
AUGUST 2017 • on crys cole & oren Ambarchi’s hotel record… by Bradford Bailey, the Hum
JUNE 2017 • Discaholic’s Corner interview by Mats Gustafsson
FEBRUARY 2017 • syg.ma Interview for Geometry of Now event in Moscow, Russia.
DECEMBER 2016 • Field Recording feature in BOMB Magazine (NYC)
SUMMER 2016 • crys cole amplifies personal space Musicworks Magazine #125, feature by Kristel Jax
JANUARY 2016 • Personal Best fanzine #6 (Norway) interview by Francis Plagne
NOVEMBER 2013 • BLOUIN ART interview by Mark Mann
JUNE 2013 • ARTslant interview by Courtney R Thompson
MAY 2013 • SPOR FESTIVAL Aarhus, Denmark, 3 questions
AUGUST 2009 • Stylus magazine (Winnipeg) by Curran Faris
Students of Decay (US – 2020)
• Wire Issue 434, April 2020
Francis Plagne + crys cole
Black Truffle (AU/DE – 2018)
Even though cole and Plagne are using a complex sonic, linguistic and structural language, Two Words favors experience over analysis. The specific techniques and processes the duo employ are less important than how the finished product affects listeners. Knowing that the first half is built primarily out of recordings of rubbed surfaces certainly adds a degree of awe for the duo’s sound manipulation skills, but it’s just as fun to try to blindly search for recognizable sounds. Often the music almost sounds like a car engine or buzzing insects, or you can convince yourself that you’re hearing recorded breaths or lapping water. It’s a masterpiece of collage music, and here is the first iteration of the idea of creating music on the verge of intelligibility.
- Connor Lockie, SLUG Magazine (excerpt from longer review) 2018
The album features a painting by Anne Wallace, of a car travelling down a rural road. The branches reflected in the car windows and the road winding through the greenery. Before hearing the album, the sleeve made no sense. Afterwards though, it’s another surprisingly perfect layered representation of this strange and deeply beautiful album. The disc presents quite possibly the strangest ‘song’ you’ll hear this year, but the weirdness is totally magnetic.
• Obladada magazine (excerpt from longer article) 2018
• Wire Issue 415, September 2018
Oren Ambarchi + crys cole
Black Truffle (AU/DE – 2017)
Built from improbable combinations of the electronic and acoustic – sonic demarcations of time, place, and emotion, Hotel Record transcends any reductive idea of music. Through synthesis, electronics, field recording, acoustic instrumentation and voice, it is an instalment in the duo’s aural diary. A sonic rendering of the transmogrification of self, falling within the undefinable realm between sound-art and and the outer boundaries of how musicality is understood. A rippling, profoundly intimate construction of texture and tone, so beautiful, surprising, and filled with humanity, that it overwhelms the ear.
- Bradford Bailey, The Hum (excerpt from longer review) 2017
- Wire Issue 407, January 2018
sand / layna
Black Truffle (AU/DE – 2015)
Surprisingly the debut solo release by long-term experimental musician & advocate – via her own ongoing explorations of “Amplified Surfaces” & her yearly “Send + Receive” festival in Winnipeg, MB – crys cole, consisting of two side-length pieces of ritualistic performance-laced tape-collage, recalling the cited influence of Key Ransone inasmuchas the “Small Music” of Rolf Julius & the minimal Concète infiltrations of Françoise Barrière.The consistent, backgrounded elements of circular motion & spry, iteratively triggered events create a narrative arc that requires an intense focus – the entire enterprise feels like a real-time construction in the same way that Luc Ferrari’s augmented realities feel unadorned – but the staggered layerings & opposed gain-stagins often create a cognitive dissonance that challenges the often “Natural” sequence of events. Deep, difficult, often meditative music the likes of which aren’t so easily brushed up against these days.– Mimaroglu Music 2015
Cover you will softer me
Penultimate Press (UK – 2014)
Ora Clementi is Crys Cole (I’m not familiar with her work) and James Rushford (from the fabulous Manhunter LP). Although Cole and Rushford live far away from each other (Canada and Australia), this recording certainly sounds like two people interacting together, which, however it was accomplished, is something I quite enjoy. There are keyboard drones, lots of unidentifiable small percussive sounds, perhaps some tapes, as well as some truly remarkable vocals. There is not any singing or intelligible words, but the voices play a very interesting card. Often quite submerged, like a Burroughs throat tape, but sometimes engaged in a somewhat creepy and erotic boy/girl banter, that sounds like it is backwards, but not quite. The vocals are not the main element by any means, but really help locate the droning and ticking in a very peculiar area. This is fascinating music. I have heard it through six times now and it is still revealing hidden mysteries. Just superb.
– Swill Radio
From the WIRE (UK), January 2015 (issue 371):
…Using farfisa, contact mics, percussion, ocarinas, piano, junk, viola and recordings of Rushford’s pet chickens (?!), the duo spent two years assembling this beautiful long-form work that is thick with a strange melancholy nostalgia. Odd dub-damaged/time and space inflected percussive rhythms set the overall feeling of distance and memorial, with odd, spectral spoken word confusion over dancing, graceful melodies and accumulations of fuzzy tape sound that come over like a stoned and sad Basil Kirchin. This is the sound of the very ghost of memory, of time lost and found via mediumistic tape work alongside aspects of Euro soundtrack work and sound sculptors like Harry Bertoia, Harry Partch et al. A truly bewitching side, highly recommended.
– Volcanic Tongue
an Ora Clementi review in POLISH on IRATEMUSIC here
Sonja Henies Vei 31
Planam (IT – 2014)
Wow. I can’t remember the last time a record affected me the way this one has. It’s an uncomfortable experience, and definitely not something that anyone would find themselves listening to on a regular basis but as a field recording specimen and stunning example of sound art, Sonja Henies Vei 31 is a must have.
Promoted as a deeply personal record that places the listener into the most personal of spaces, I bought a copy of Sonja Henies Vei 31 almost on a whim. Perhaps it’s that element of surprise which made this such an intense listen for me, and for that reason I almost don’t want to give too much away. Which makes this a difficult record to write about. What ever you read in relation to Sonja Henies Vei 31, it’s no lie that Ambarchi and Cole invite listeners into an incredibly private space. The listener takes on the role of voyuer in an uncomfortable and awkward way; we learn that real life can be stranger than fiction. This private (head)space is cleverly balanced out by an allusion to an outer, public space which heightens the sense of being privvy to something you shouldn’t be.
I’m curious about why Ambarchi and Cole decided to make this record. It’s a gutsy move that leaves them vulnerable to all manner of judgement. I’ve poked around the internet and can’t find much written about it. Thankfully both artists are experienced at making challenging work; a record like this couldn’t be pulled off by just anyone.
Fans of field recordings will definitely appreciate Sonja Henies Vei 31. Truly an unusual, and unforgettable listen.
– Evol Kween blogspot
Bocian Records (PL – 2012)
An LP release documenting portions of the trio’s North American tour in late 2010. I caught their set at Littlefield in Brooklyn (which occurred roughly a week after the excerpts here) and recall it as being fine if not earthshaking, notable for being my first exposure to Crys Cole and having been impressed by her musicianship. As there are three dates listed here, from Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal, I take it that Ambarchi has stitched together segments into a whole, or in any case, two sections separated by vinyl sides.
Cole played with great subtlety and reticence in Brooklyn and I’m assuming it’s the case here as well, her contributions tinting the atmosphere limned on the one hand by Rowe’s fairly rough-edged scrabbling and on the other by Ambarchi’s more tonal washes, though when I heard them I was also impressed that the latter didn’t play nearly as smoothly as I feared given my most recent exposure to releases under his own name (which, I should say, I like well enough, only that they seem to have drifted well away from where Rowe has found himself in recent years). So, one can pick up certain Rowe-isms and assign, perhaps, the more drone-like sound to Ambarchi, ceding Cole the remainder, if one chooses to parse things that way. Or you can just sit back and enjoy.
It’s an interesting exercise to listen to Rowe when he’s involved in a project that’s not so conceptually important to him. Not at all to denigrate this trio, but it was more of an offer to tour with people he liked and he did so. Around the same time, he was working with Kjell Bjørgeengen on something that was far closer to his heart and which he simply approached differently. Here, it’s a more relaxed affair, Rowe simply trying to fit in as best he can. This often results in a “smoother” flow as is the case here, though a dark one, like very strong coffee laced with some unidentified but potent liquor, It simply involves a different aim, an effort to evoke a more direct sensory experience than elsewhere, where much subsequent processing is often necessary, In that sense, it’s e fine, satisfying set, kind of an update on the myriad recordings he did with Ambarchi early in the oughts, tougher and more cynical and with the refreshing presence of Cole, from whom I *still* would like to hear more.
crys cole, Jamie Drouin, Lance Austin Olsen: Linnaeus’ Hydra Infrequency Editions (2012)
This is a lovely recording yet one of those that, when pressed to describe “why”, leaves me with few descriptives. In a a sense, it fits easily enough into quasi-similar work from the recent past–a trio wending their careful, quiet-yet-bumpy way through a field of intimate sounds. As I know I’ve said before, rather unhelpfully, it boils down to the choices involved and how those choices mesh with my own (hopefully always changing) sensibility. The means employed (Cole: contact microphones, no-input mixer; Drouin: modular synthesizer, radio; Olsen: amplified copper plates, objects) are, these days, unremarkable enough, but the combination works and breathes quite well, plastically here, ethereally there, metallic sometimes, sandy and scratchy others, generally at low volume but, crucially, with no feeling of constraint in that regard, simply not happening, on that day, to get very loud.
I suppose the best one can say is that my attention never wandered. I was always willing to be led down these paths, always finding more than enough to perk my interest, to tickle my brain and ears. A very good job indeed.
– Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
Tonight a new release on the beautifully packaged Infrequency Editions label run by the Canadian musicians Jamie Drouin and Lance Austin Olsen, who until recently both seemed to be living in Berlin, where this trio recording, alongside fellow visiting musician Crys Cole was captured. The disc is entitled Linnaeus’ Hydra, taking its name curiously from the tale of an eighteenth century Hamburg taxidermist who claims to have found the remains of a seven headed hydra, only for it to be proved a fake. I have no idea how this CD connects in any way to that story, but its a nice old tale all the same and I guess you have to name albums of improvised music something…
The music then is a rather lovely forty-five minutes of minimal, textural electrocacoustic improvisation split across three tracks. Cole works very simply with contact mics and a no=input mixer, Olsen apparently rubs and scrapes pieces of copperplate and other objects, some of them rubber and Drouin uses a modular synth and radio. The music inhabits a quiet, yet constantly agitated area. The three musicians seem to work together exceptionally well, with Cole blending into the already well established Drouin/Olsen duo seamlessly. The sense of three musicians working towards one single outcome is pronounced, with the balance between the three so evenly spread that it is rarely easy to work out who is doing what, with only the really obvious metallic scrapes, little grabs of radio or synthesised scribbles ever easy to pin down to one person. Much of the time the music just blends into one, with the contributions of each musician slight enough for the cumulative result to easily appear to be one person’s work.
Stylistically, I am very much reminded of the work produced by parts of the London and Berlin scenes around the turn of the millennium, with London’s Wastell/Davis/Davies groupings when in electronic mode clearest in my head. There isn’t then anything particularly groundbreakingly new here. Quiet electroacoustic improv focussed on little textures and soft tones with tiny bits of radio dropped in aren’t new news, but this CD succeeds simply because of how well it is done. The pieces fall together with what sounds like much ease, and yet the end result isn’t just pretty, there is enough of a spiky bite to be found amongst the soft glows and sandy textures to draw metaphorical blood. The radio grabs burst out of nowhere, things splutter to a halt when you least expect them, and a calming tone sis very likely to be ripped across by a sore enduring tear of contact mic abrasion. It is hard to know what else to say about it beyond further description of the sounds and how they fit together. The secret is, as ever, to just listen and join the flow, let the surprises surprise you, the warming moments hug you. An all round invigorating, if quietly soft atmosphere split across three parts. A good one indeed.
– Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear
• Solo performance on Friday, Nov 9, 2018 at Moore at 60, a 2-day event at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis curated by Thurston Moore. Excerpt from review by Erik Thompson from City Pages.
• Ora Clementi live at Constellation (Chicago) in the WIRE (UK), October 2015 #380
• live at Tectonics, Adelaide Festival, Australia, March 2014
Redefining the word ‘understated’, Crys Cole then graced the solo stage, playing to an audience transfixed. Producing fascinating sounds, she very cleverly took us on a journey, rondo style, which finished right back at the beginning.
– Gordon Forester, GlamAdelaide.com.au
• live at NOW Now Festival in Sydney, Australia, January 2013
Set four was the gorgeously sublime Crys Cole… This was a delicate, breathtaking sound, a combination of her voice and long finger scratches over her amplified surfaces. This was a performance designed to engage deep listening and have the listener use their ears to locate themselves and their body within the space of the room. That is, the listening requires an openness that allows for every sound around, particularly the sound of one’s own breathing and the sound of ones own listening. Her fingertips would produce a delicate crackle and soft whoosh of a sound that had to be listened for, which lead to feeling the sound within. The sound, when listened to deeply, gave the sense of complete openness, as if one were free from a coffin or escaping from a closed off environment. The harder I found myself engaging with the light delicate sounds that had to be tasted, seen, felt as well as heard, the more I found myself opening up to a broader sound scape, something larger than I had before I listened. The breathless anticipating falls away, as Cole invokes the silence and all its noise, inviting the listener to participate in brief moment of fingertip touch with the alternative. Alternative to what?
Well, whatever you brought in with you.
– Lisa Thatcher, lisathatcher.wordpress.com
• live in Kyoto, Urban Guild, January 2012:
Crys Cole, who played first, picked up the sounds around her body, for example the sound of her fingers and a brush on the table top, the sound of her clothing and her breath, without excessive processing or amplification so as not to los
e the details, connecting the sounds carefully to make her own abstract improvised world. Natural avant-garde living sounds, coolly and quietly gathered in a musique concrete style.
– ikegayaishiguro blog (translated by Tim Olive)
• live at SubStrata festival, Seattle, July 2011:
Canadian improvisational artist Crys Cole began Day 1 with a modest demonstration of how an all-encompassing musical atmosphere can be created with minimal equipment and processing.
– Mike Reid, residentadvisor.net
• live trio with Oren Ambarchi & Keith Rowe in Brooklyn, LIttlefield, December 2010:
• live in Vancouver, OR Gallery – Open Circuits festival, 2003:
Crys Cole is the highlight. Recently moved from Montréal, she delivers riveting onkyo minimalism. With a steel meditation ball and a silver necklace, which she rolls and drags over a contact mic, adjusting the sound on a small mixing board, Cole has the focus and patience to allow the room to absorb every prickle, wince and reverberation.
– Lee Henderson, The WIRE (UK) issue 238, 2003
filling a space with salt (in two parts), 2013
“Meanwhile, crys cole’s filling a space with salt (in two parts) presents the act of listening in isolation from the visual that usually barges its way to the foreground. A small mountain of salt rises up from one of the gallery’s floor vents, while at an adjacent empty vent, a speaker emits the sounds of fluid in a spluttering, inconsistent stream. The kinship of listening and seeing is torn in half and resituated in time and space, creating a somewhat dizzying delay that momentarily renders one independent from the other, thus instigating heightened consciousness of each in turn. It’s a subtle and peculiar effect.”
“With and without a physical presence ‘filling a space with salt (in two parts)’ (2013), by the Canadian cole, also gently illustrates how an understated recording need not be any less powerful. Made up of fallen crystals, the piece emerges from a vent on one side of the gallery, as a triangular mountain of powder fills a void and creates a soft white peak. The process of its creation plays out over 108 minutes, under a grill at the opposite corner of the main room, cleverly sifting notions of materiality, sculpture and elemental force without any bitter hint of academia.”
– Lindsey Starkweather, aqnb
“Canadian artist crys cole (who seems to self-effacingly disdain capitalisation of her name or the titles of her work) hides her piece away in the interstitial spaces of the hall. filling a space with salt (in two parts) uses the air vents set into the parquet flooring in the corners towards the back. One is filled with salt, which rises to a white peak through the grille like a miniature Everest. Its form, made up of countless steadily poured grains, determines the limits of growth within this confined space. Any more and the structure would be destabilised, excess salt spilling out to spread across the floor and be walked through the rest of the galleries. The tip which we see here, peeking out into the gallery proper, is suggestive of a whole subterranean world, the air vent the entrance to some complex of hacked out salt mine tunnels, from which this might be an extracted heap. It leads us to re-imagine an empty, incidental space which we would normally have paid no attention to, locating art in areas on the edge of the official display boundaries (and a little beyond). A second vent has hidden speakers below which play a close-mic’d recording of the pouring of the salt. This obliges the listener to kneel down on the floor (or lie down if they feel like it) and press their ear to the grille. The sound is akin to trickling water, with a chaotic variance in the density of flow. There are abrasive rushes and interludes in which individual grains or droplets are distinguishable. It’s the sound of the salt mountain taking shape, order dictated by the physics of mass, volume and stable forms. But an alchemical transformation has taken place. From this driest of compound elements, liquid sounds have emanated. We are once again led to re-imagine spaces we would normally pass by (unless possessed with a particular fascination for Victorian iron grillwork). The air vent now becomes a drain beneath which we can hear the flow of underground streams or sewage systems.”
– Jez Winship, Sparks in Electric Jelly blog
– Aesthetica Magazine (UK)
Tracings, Spanien19c, Arhus, Denmark, 2013
“Jeg indleder festivalens anden dag i det lille lokale på Udstillingsstedet Spanien 19C, hvor den britiske [sic] kunstner Crys Cole har installeret værket ‘Tracings’. Lydinstallation er ganske enkel i både udformning og udtryk og består blot af en højttaler i hvert af rummets fire hjørner, samt en lille scenebelyst ophobning af forskellige typer af papir i lokalets midte. Forinden installationens opstilling, og altså inden selve festivalen, har Crys Cole foretaget lydoptagelser af en ensom performance med papiret fra rummets midte. Lydoptagelserne afspilles nu i rummet, mens papiret stumt og ubevægeligt hviler i midten af rummet
På grund af Crys Coles meget nuancerede og detaljerige optagelser af sine bevægelser inde i rummet, er det virkelig som om, man hører lokalets klang sitre i luften gennem lydene af det knitrende og flænsende papir – som akustiske genfærd, der lader de flygtige bevægelser fra performancen hjemsøge rummet og efterlade spor i beskuerens mentale rum. Meget enkelt og meget virkningsfuldt.”
• sweeper at Volume: Hear Here, Toronto, Canada, January 17 – March 10, 2013
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery curated by Christof Migone,
In Sweeper, a 17 minutes video, crys cole is focusing on another mundane sound – the sound of sweeping, of a broom scraping across the floor. It is distilled and amplified, much like the sound of breathing in Last Breath. The highly detailed sound of the sweeping is contrasted against the low image quality of the video and the distance of the sweeper in the footage. The juxtaposition startles and asks the viewer to stand back and re-analyze the “normality” of everyday life – a presence that is so pervasive and still so easily becomes absent.
– ARToronto.ca review by Leanne Wang
• TRACINGS installation at the RAW:Gallery of Architecture & Design, Winnipeg – April 20 – May 25 2012
There’s nothing to see at Tracings, sound artist crys cole’s exhibition at RAW: Gallery, but I’m fairly certain it’s a drawing show. Looking closely, one just barely makes out a band of scuff marks encircling the gallery, seemingly made by dragging some blunt object across the surface of the walls. This is a drawing of a sort. Ceiling-mounted loudspeakers also ring the space, emitting a not-altogether-pleasant scraping sound that seems to travel in a vaguely eerie orbit. That sound is a drawing of another sort.
Let me qualify. Drawing can be a means of producing images, certainly, but I prefer to think of it as simply mark-making, any action that produces an enduring record of itself. I scrape a piece of charcoal across the surface of a sheet of paper or I draw my finger through wet sand, and I’m left with tangible evidence of having done so, traces that persist after the act of drawing is complete. “The drawing” is the record, the charcoal portrait hanging on the wall or the marks scratched out along the beach, obliterated by the tide a moment later.
If we can think of “the drawing” as evidence of “drawing,” does it need to be evidence we can see? I can feel the resistance of wet sand against my skin, and I can hear the shushing, squeaking sound of charcoal against dry paper. Can those be “the drawing,” also? Any tactile or auditory record lasts for just an instant (and the former is perceptible only by me), but they are records just the same. They could be drawings of a sort.
What cole in fact has done at RAW is to walk around the gallery, dragging a contact microphone against the walls. This action creates both that indistinct equator of scuff marks and vibrations that become the sound piped through the speakers.
What’s compelling about the work (and further aligns its vocabularies with drawing) is that both the visual and auditory components actually provide more than a simple record of cole’s movement; they actually are forms of image-making, of representation, as well. If the gallery walls were to somehow fall away, leaving the scuffmarks and the sound to hover in the air, we’d retain a remarkably clear “picture” of the space itself. The scuff marks describe the gallery’s dimensions and the sound illustrates its textures (the sound of a microphone scraping against wallboard is not the same as the sound of a microphone scraping against the gallery’s unfinished stone exterior walls).
In the late ’60s, Mel Bochner used black tape and Letraset to inscribe the gallery with its own dimensions — the heights of walls and widths of doors — and cole is, to a large extent, following suit. Where Bochner’s intervention was matter-of-fact — even clinical — cole’s is embodied (or it was), weighted with connotations of derangement and haunted by literal echoes of her physical presence.
Drawing’s unique appeal (and part of what distinguishes it from illustration) is the sense it creates of a direct connection with the artist, our knowledge (or our assumption) of physical contact. That connection, real or perceived, can animate even the most uncomplicated formal gestures. That sense of connection, though, requires effort and a certain kind of faith. You’ll have to muster these if cole’s Tracings are to be enduring ones.
Steven Leyden Cochrane is an emerging visual artist, writer, and educator from Tampa, Fla. UPTOWN Magazine