Experimental music often operates at its own pace, because there’s no reason to rush and, ideally, no one to answer to when five minutes of semi-silence pop up on your album. I like to think of it as a more natural form of expression; records like Wired Open Day 2009, at times, sound more like a chronicle of the earth’s cycles than a product created to press — that is, manipulate — the many buttons of the human brain. But, as you’ll read, it contains elements that will fry your circuits as well.
Wired Open Day 2009 is a vinyl-only release, documenting outdoor performances by Alan Lamb, Garry Bradbury, David Burraston, Oren Ambarchi, and Robin Fox at The WIRED Lab in rural Australia. Here, the artists used a landscape-scale installation of wires commenced by Lamb as part of their performance. (I encourage you to read up on it.) Interestingly, there’s a vast difference between the four sides of vinyl, one each created by Ambarchi and Fox and the other two shared by Lamb, Bradbury, and Burraston.
The team of Lamb/Burraston manage the most ear-pleasing set, with lazer swipes cutting across gel-cap clicks as a drone furnace heats in the back. There’s something calming about the experience; it’s like walking in a temperamental rainstorm while you’re ricocheting rubber bullets off concrete, the small compositional tweaks so subtle you barely realize they’re happening. It’s as if the air thickens just a bit, and that’s when you know you’re due for another gale. The one that hits a little more than halfway through “8:05 p.m. Part 1” is one of the most awe-inspiring stretches you’ll hear on a record. The rain is replaced by hail, and your skull is pelted so hard that those quarter-sized chunks from that one time in Fort Collins seem like confetti. It’s as if nature is wearing down its drum kit, with a little help from electricity. Pure genius.
Lamb’s tryst with Bradbury is another purely original experience, albeit more of a drifting one, complete with bird chirps and a Stephan Mathieu-esque sense of Float. Later, the mind is melted by a cacophony of buzzing RIPs and liquid-morphine drips closing out an intense, volatile side that will convince an acid-head s/he is being sawed in half. This is the ugly, jungle-insect side of nature, yet you won’t want to swat away the mosquitoes.
Far from being overshadowed by the preceding performances, Ambarchi hits on a more mystical trajectory in the moments when he’s not bombarding the listener with unidentified “THUMP”s. The spare instances hint at a much bigger picture, so it’s disappointing to hear a thick, unwieldy, didgeridoo-type belch dominate for so long. The strategy works much better when other subtleties are allowed to enter the fray.
Fox helms side D, and his contribution might well be the most daring, crackling with burnt-hair static, high tones approaching dog-whistle status, and the sort of random, John Wiese-ian blippity-bloop the other tracks avoid, culminating in an insanely unsettling dialtone that just won’t hang up and a firecracker-finale of a noise burst that will leave the taste of gunpowder on your ear-tongue. It’s a sinister rush and fitting way to close out Wired Open Day 2009, as its unnatural, hyper-manic appeal, for fans of this sort of thing, will be perfectly natural.