Photo courtesy Dr. G. Fazio


Watch an electric wire and suddenly it begins to vibrate, fast, faster, until it transforms into a magnificent electronic hiss that splits, multiplies, fragments until it becomes a sea of energy that concentrates the brain cells in a continuous struggle to recognize the sound. The stimuli come from all directions, but it's not tiring to find an acoustic balance that leaves the psyche satisfied, satiated for several minutes -- suddenly interrupted and another attraction starts, with colors gray and purple at the same moment. To lose yourself in the enormous abundance, the reflections created by John Duncan's acoustic spectrum is quite easy, just as easy as it is to again discover yourself on the main road of unheard research, always travelled by the man from Kansas: the passage of time only helps to create music that's more stimulating and evolved.

TAP INTERNAL is obligatory listening for anyone who follows the cutting edge of the avantguarde, where the sound itself dictates the way it's molded in the few hands (John among them) able to guide it.

-- Massimo Ricci, Deep Listenings 18, Spring 2000

Have you ever asked yourself 'What is the sound of energy'? John Duncan has been trying for years to explain the composition of matter through sound and not everyone can understand this, but once the door is opened everything suddenly becomes easy. TAP INTERNAL is beautiful and -- in classical "Duncan style" -- cruel, in that it puts you in contact with our deepest psyche and lays it bare, turning the auricular membrane inside out, leaving an indelible mark of new frequencies that are beautiful to abandon yourself to, but watch out: just at the moment of hypnosis the scenario is completely convoluted and the sound becomes coarse and varied, cuts the air and tries to attack -- the nightmare begins again, and once more the brain is forced to change its attitude, define a new reaction to the input.

The beauty and uniqueness of John Duncan's music is fully captured in this continuous change of situations, dynamics, sounds and emotions which is, in a word, the microscopic photography of life itself.

-- Massimo Ricci, translation by G. Stefani

John Duncan's new CD - the second for the Touch label - turns out to be a quite articulated work, despite the fact that only one track is indicated on the display. Much more polychrome than what the smoky cropped x-ray used for the cover leads us to believe. After the initial modulations, rich with harmonics, sequences of electromagnetic static, muffled pulsations captured in the most obscure cavities of the unconscious, pastoral electroacoustics all appear and fade, ending in a splendid, crackling final crescendo that cuts, suddenly, to an anxious silence. Tough and painful, Duncan's "internal tap" opens like a pearl oyster to show its true treasures. But only for the determined, who haven't pulled in the oars and given up after the turbulent contrasting currents encountered at first approach.

-- Etero Genio, Blow Up nr. 28 September 2000 translation by G. Stefani

TAP INTERNAL maps the topography of listening where buzzsaw horizons give way to a vista of meditative bliss. Despite the aura of magnetic dread, I can't help but feel strangely comforted by the yearning, bowing buzz, which recalls nothing for me so much as the resonant passage of airplanes above pinetopped mountains. And maybe that's the point: TAP INTERNAL points to those places outside "civilization" (nature, energy, the body) suddenly brought into close contact with the shavings of technology. The result is like a metal form humming with life and bristling with the detritus it's attracted. Intensely objective music, not quite documentary but created from its snapshots - almost like forms of measurement (the hertz, the bit) treated like artworks: framed, hung, regarded. And painfully pure.

-- Philip Sherburne

John Duncan's exploratory soundscapes probe into never-before-heard micro-niches, seeking aural answers to the mysteries of sonic material and creating new questions in the process... not for the timid or impatient listener, the panoramic soundscenes of TAP INTERNAL delivers more than 45-minutes of perplexing audioenigmas...

Light electro-organic scurrying becomes a binaurally buzzing dronestream whose layers occasionally wander into slightly different perspectives. After several minutes of basking in this deep power surge, the ears are abruptly scoured by the mild abrasiveness of a prolonged hissing/squealing sequence. That aural scrubdown is replaced by softly fluttering sub-audible patterns (sounding like machine-like hum and distant jet-roar) which fade to near-silence... which is then shattered by piercingly scrawled electronic eruptions. A muffled mechanical vibrato replaces that brief, blistering passage, followed by more low frequency responses, accented by glitchy riffles. A very quiet single-tone drone and microscopically chiming cycles are followed by the tracing of soft-but-rough textures, akin to following the hills and valleys of a rumpled sheet of electronic burlap which (very gradually) grows louder and more bristly. This closing movement contains some truly satisfying surround-sound moments.

The cover art is an x-ray (ribs, it appears) half-toned onto clear plastic, emphasizing the "internal" aspects of looking/listening "into" something... and not necessarily understanding everything you see/hear...

Guaranteed to get the old "What are you listening to!?" reaction from family and friends, TAP INTERNAL will provide unpredictable twists-and-turns for experimental/noise listeners; even the less-adventurous should want to stick it out for the morbid curiosity of wondering what sonic deviation John Duncan will render next.

--David J Opdyke, AmbiEntrance

A new and extremely unsettling CD from this American creator, last spotted living in exile [well...] in Italy. Making powerful electroacoustic statements like this is just the tip of the iceberg for this extreme artist. He has long been involved in other media, setting up extreme and threatening situations in his environments, engaging in confrontational performance art, and utilising photography, video and cinema in equally confrontational set-ups. Some of these involve pornography and extreme sexual imagery, often projected into the faces of the audience so that not only can't it be ignored, but a strong reaction will be unavoidable. Another work of his explores isolation and loneliness in the most extreme way possible: this is MAZE, the 1994 video-installation work whose participants are locked naked in a totally dark basement room. They have no knowledge of how long this set-up is going to last, and are completely blind.

TAP INTERNAL states upfront just how visceral it intends to be, and not just with its title which suggests an unpleasant surgical operation: there is a striking X-ray photograph on the front cover, printed on acetate. It's a human chest cavity... To listen to this music can be, if you'll let it, quite a terrifying experience, which is why I usually play it during the daytime. It is penetrating, like surgery; it mesmerises, like an evil hypnotist; it freezes, like Arctic icebergs; and it immerses the entire body, like a scalding bath. The squeamish among you need not worry, because you're not going to hear anything particularly graphic or violent. Somehow, the violence is done to you in a much more subtle way. John Duncan, who knows a lot about the unpleasant side of the psyche, means to enter your bloodstream, show you things you don't want to see, tests your limits, and make you uncomfortably aware of the prison bars you live inside.

Be sure to look out for other works by this amazing artist.

-- Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector

"Tap Internal" firmly addresses a question that has been tangential to a number of John Duncan's previous releases: "What is the sound of energy?" Starting with the basic scientific method of breaking down a substance to reveal its structure, the character of its parts, and the taxonomic position it holds in relation to other elements like it, Duncan researches sound by crumbling it into its subatomic particles. "Tap Internal" is an ambitious project that mirrors the raw energy of white-hot VLF cracklings, shortwave radio buzz, and tectonic-plate rumbles. While Duncan's experiments have a willful cruelty to them, his static laden pulsations and incendiary ambient environments aren't merely theatrics of aural confrontation. The metaphoric hammer that Duncan takes to his sound sources softens in the presence of sublime yet beautiful moments of mesmerizing drones. In the process of obliteration, Duncan may have stumbled onto bigger more metaphysical questions that he may not be willing to answer quite yet, like "What is the sound of Duncan's soul?"

-- Jim Haynes, Aquarius

In his second release for Touch (after "Send") John Duncan once again penetrates human deepest regions of subconciousness and psyche and locates positions of coordinates like "the beauty of sound" and "human evil" in yet unexplored territories. Like in e.g. "The Crackling", Duncan lays open the question of "the sound of energy". Within the 46 minute's oeuvre there are some seperated entities, floating together only in its whole context, as some sub-parts are divided solely by simple cuts. These parts focus on the different inner-corporal regions. Out of these, the modified beat of the heart, the tap internal, at the same time is the most comfortable and the most subliminal. Caution with high volume: Similarities between the frequencies of the heart and the hertz can be registrated not only optionally and can be identified as intention. "Tap Internal" is again heavy listening in high quality.

-- Heinrich Deisl, SKUG

So why doesn't John Duncan get more credit as a world class sonic architect? The guy has made amazing music for years and often crafts incredible walls of sound out of what seems to be raw magnetic waves or slivers of tape. By today's point-and-click standards, Duncan may be primitive but I think I'll at least be coming back to Tap Internal or past classics like Klaar long after most glitchsters are programming the Bundeswher recruiting Web site. Duncan's secret seems to be an instinct for balancing, pacing, and the willingness to push the meters up into the red. Thick tides of noise can flow out at any point in one of his recordings and his placement always seems perfect. There's a sense of tension building, as well as the raw surprise evident when a swathe of noise lashes out. John Duncan can work with what seems to be magnetic force.

-- Bruce Adams, Your Flesh