THE NAZCA TRANSMISSIONS


2009
John Duncan
5-track LP released by Alga Marghen.

Listen to an excerpt


Duncan's text from the inner sleeve notes:

On Christmas Eve, 2004, an email came in from a writer who introduced himself as Anton Düder, an archaeologist working at the site of the Nazca Lines in Peru. Düder claimed to have discovered, and over time recorded, a variety of sounds actually generated by the enigmatic lines themselves. Familiar with Infrasound-Tidal, composed from source recordings taken from tides, seismic activity and barometric data from the Australian coastline, he suggested that I might be in a unique position to compose a piece with these sources as well; that if I was interested he would gladly ask his nephew in Bremen, Germany, whom he said he was visiting over the holidays, to forward a CDr copy of his recordings to me for consideration. I agreed to listen to them and sent my mailing address, suspecting this was some sort of joke and not expecting to hear any more from him.

Several days later a package, postmarked Bremen with no return address except 'Anton Düder', arrived with a CDr that contained some of the strangest sounds I had ever heard. That same day I sent an email to Düder to say that I had received the CDr and would begin working with it, asking him to send details on where and how the recordings had been made. All of the sources were modified in my studio, some radically, to bring out an unsettling, haunting quality.

Then my personal life went into turmoil and everything I owned was packed off to another city. Files and equipment were all still in boxes when Düder wrote to ask about my progress. I explained that as soon as my studio was settled again, it would be possible to focus on this project.

In mid-June, the 5-track piece was ready. I emailed Düder to ask for a mailing address, in order to send him a CDr of the work and get his opinion. No response. Several messages were sent, none of them ever answered or returned.

Which strengthens the possibility that Anton Düder may not have actually existed, that the entire episode is an elaborate hoax. Personally, I believe it doesn't matter. I'm much less interested in the story than I am in the sound of the results; the completed work stands on its own merits whatever the sources might actually be.

A hard disk crash effectively destroyed all of the email correspondence between us. What remains are the notes he sent that ostensibly describe the details of sites and times for the source recordings, reproduced here verbatim. Whether or not the story behind this project is relevant to the work itself is left here for you to decide.


"As always with Duncan, he delivers music of great substance."
Keith Moliné, The Wire

More reviews

JOHN DUNCAN LIVE - BRUSSELS

2009
John Duncan

AQ-LE02
Live recording of the solo concert at Argos for the Ways of Hearing festival 2007.
50-copy limited edition CDr, signed with printed and numbered insert in a steel CD case.
Released by Allquestions, Bologna


Recorded at Argos VZW Ways Of Hearing Festival on October 18, 2007, this performance comes in an extremely limited edition CD (50 copies autographed by the composer). As the label's name implies, John Duncan's ideas leave us asking questions rather than finding answers, this mysterious set being no exception.

The opening drone ­ a wonderfully wavering pulsation shifting in the stereo field with evident effects on the nerves ­ is suddenly cut short by a discharge of disposable sonic materials, abruptly interrupting the state of illusion created in the initial segment. From then on, the audibility level diminishes quite a bit and one is forced to turn the volume way up ­ provided that you're not wearing headphones, of course ­ in order to presume (not really understanding) what's going on.

At first, intangible appearances ­ the sound similar to a twister blowing through a hundred bottlenecks - maintain the atmosphere relatively static, although disturbed at last by a measure of electronic interference. This section works well also by mixing it with the sounds coming from the outside, but that's not the point. What matters is the customary sense of somewhat anxious awareness of an implied deeper process, ever less than predictable in its cross-pollination of human expression and mechanical amorphousness. The muffled helicopter-like throb appearing after approximately 15 minutes introduces an even more impenetrable setting during which Duncan's shortwave mastery shines of its very radiance, additional fragments of brain-stimulating frequencies mixed with urban echoes and a few whispered words to perplex the listener once again.

Remote explosions, contaminated air, biotic resemblances enhanced by processed vocal phonemes, humming mantras picturing a hardly bearable solitude, distant sirens, ill minds, suffering people, a desperate search for a solution amidst ominous reverberations highlighting the limitations of mankind. Duncan is neither a teacher nor a healer - or maybe he is both? - yet his performances always manage to elicit serious distress and important indications - which is what real art is all about.

Massimo Ricci, Brain Dead Eternity

AAHHH...

2009
John Duncan


Remix track for Melvins: Chicken Switch
Also included: Eye Yamatsuka, Christoph Heemann, V/VM, Matmos, Lee Renaldo, Merzbow, David Scott Stone, Panacea, Sunroof!, Kawabata Makoto, Farmersmanual, Void Manes, RLW, $peedranch
Released by Ipecac, Los Angeles

Ah, the mighty Melvins, we've been into 'em for longer than we care to admit (put it this way, some of you reading this weren't yet born when we were first freaking out over the absurd heaviness of Ozma). They can do no wrong, or when they do "wrong" it's 'cause they meant to (i.e. Prick). Fans know that the Melvins don't need any help from anybody when it comes to making fucked up sounds. Pretty much every album of theirs has got at least totally WTF? track on it. They even have a few ENTIRE albums that confusionally consist of nothing but, such as the aforementioned Prick. So, imagine if the Melvins DID get some help, or rather, don't imagine, listen to this new all-remix album and hear for yourself! That's right, what could be cooler than the Melvins? How 'bout the Melvins screwed and chopped (if only! they should have gotten Swishahouse involved) by a bunch of other extreme/avant music mavens? Check it out: Eye Yamatsuka, Christoph Heemann, V/VM, John Duncan, Matmos, Lee Ranaldo, Merzbow, David Scott Stone, Panacea, Sunroof!, Kawabata Makoto, farmersmanual, Void Manes, RLW, and $peedranch! Dunno who Void Manes is (sounds black metal) but the rest of 'em are well known experimental/electronic/noise artists you're probably all familiar with. Not sure if the Melvins themselves picked 'em, or Ipecac did, but it's an impressive roster, just the folks to remix the Melvins catalog in gonzo, Plunderphonics fashion. No, these aren't "normal" remixes. Rather than having just a single song to play with, the participants were apparently asked to take a whole Melvins album and turn it into their "own" track. Maybe you're wondering, is this noisy? Yes. Starts off that way certainly with Eye from the Boredoms' "Washmachine Sk8tronics". Endlessly chugging guitar riffage, gobs of distortion and shrill garbled electronics. Good grief, by the time you get to the end, which brings in the sounds of skateboards, it's hard to imagine who among the other remixers could top this, or how. Cleverly, the next track takes a totally different tack, Christoph Heemann's quietly droning "Emperor Twaddle Remix" being an abstract and (mostly) lovely respite from the noisy shenanigans that start up again on the very next cut, V/VM's "She Chokes Her Dying Breath & Does It In My Face", which proves that anything current noiseniks like Wolf Eyes and Shit & Shine ever did, the Melvins did it first, provided you listen to 'em with the assistance of V/VM. This sounds more like Merzbow than the latter track remixed by Merzbow himself, whose contribution to this disc is equally distortodelic but perhaps more rhythmic. That brings us to track 4, the aforementioned John Duncan mix, which for the first time on this disc sounds like could actually be something from an actual Melvins album. With a heavy percussive onslaught and droning guitar, it's like an extended intro to a real Melvins song, but then when you think the rock is gonna kick in, instead you get low-end heartbeat pulsations and high-end electronic sizzle.
Again, whomever programmed this disc did a fine job, 'cause that segues quite nicely into the clicks and cuts techno makeover that the Matmos boys do for the Melvins on "Linkshander". Heck we all might like techno better if it ALWAYS had the ominous doom-drone thing going on in the background, and spacey sci-fi effects, that this track does. Lee Ranaldo's "Eggnog Trilogy" starts off with the first easily recognizable Melvins material on here so far, including even snippets of Buzz's vocals. This takes over from Duncan's cut as the track that sounds the most like it could be the Melvins themselves, but at the same time clearly isn't entirely. And, gosh, there's plenty more highlights, we'll not describe them all, except to say that Panacea's "electroclash" remix indeed sounds like that (rad!), and Sunroof! succeed in transmuting the Melvins into something that sounds more like their own hazy shining dronemusick, lovely. Most of the remixers delve into the realm of digital glitch and out-and-out noise, with a small minority opting instead for calm and quiet. Tape speed manipulation, pitch shifting, extreme distortion, sudden edits, that's mostly the modus operandi here and the Melvins can take it, somehow keeping their unique musical persona intact. Though it will be challenging, trainspotting Melvins fanatics can have good fun trying to figure out what songs and/or albums each track is plundering. Lastly, we can't review this without mentioning that a good friend of ours first heard the John Duncan remix while riding in a Lamborghini [actually a BMW Z8 convertible; was I driving?] speeding through the Italian Alps -with- John Duncan. How cool and/or strange is that? While you might not be listening to this in a luxury sports car, more likely in your own home, we're sure you'll get a big kick out of it too, along with all the other remixes... Aquarius Records