Philip Samartzis, Eugene Ughetti - Array
Over the last 20 years, Lawrence English’s Room40 imprint has become an unmistakable force in the landscape of experimental, electronic, and electroacoustic music, enveloping a vast global context that extends far beyond its Australian roots. Its sprawling catalog of releases, currently numbering into the hundreds, traverses an incredibly diverse range of highly individual practices, spanning numerous generations. Room40 has had an eye for innovation and artists that venture off the beaten path. One such case is “Array”, a stunning LP by Philip Samartzis and Eugene Ughetti, that the label dropped toward the end of 2021. Sinfully overlooked at the time - resting at the juncture of environmental activism, field recording, and forward-thinking manifestations of instrumental action and musique concrète - it’s a stunning piece of work - issued in a beautiful, limited-edition on vinyl - that stands among the most fascinating releases Room40 has placed in our hands.
At first glance, the creative partnership of Philip Samartzis and Eugene Ughetti seems as surprising as it is unlikely. Both Australian artists work at fairly opposite poles of experimental practice. Samartzis is a sound artist and researcher, who, over the past few decades, has assembled a stunning body of work that investigates the social and environmental conditions informing remote wilderness regions and their communities, deploying advanced audio technologies to illuminate the transformative effects of climate change. Ughetti, on the other hand, is a percussionist, composer, conductor, primarily working within the field of new music, with a particular focus on hybrid-arts collaboration. “Array”, Samartzis and Ughetti’s first outing as a duo - a companion piece to “Polar Force”, a performance-installation by the pair - is a fascinating and singular joining of these remarkably divergent worlds.
“Array” is constructed from a pallet of field recordings taken from radar and scientific instrumentation used for upper atmospheric research and terrestrial communication, intertwined with layers of live performance using custom built instrumentation - recorded in unique, voluminous spaces at a polar research station - that produce unique textures, rhythmic cycles, resonances, and timbral phenomena. The collective result - rattling, scraping, and dancing across the LP’s two sides - weaves a complex conceptual framework of multiple dimensions; how built environments are transformed through stress and fatigue caused by extreme climate and weather, the extent of possibilities generated by the effects of material and surface, and the snapshot sonic artefacts of a radically changing world, as beautiful, real, and violent, as it is connected to politics and social consciousness.
Across its three movements - “Radome”, “Katabatic Wind” and “Medium Frequency Spaced Array Radars” - the album presents Antarctica as a geographical space laden with literal and abstract meanings, revealing a zone of creative potential far beyond the standard tropes of perception and understanding. Deftly handled by Samartzis and Ughetti, the lines between the actors - the artists, spaces, and the natural world - blur, producing a hyper-realistic, heavily textural and percussive encounter of the powerful forces that operate at the margins of the planet.
While “Array” is undoubtedly a duo of stunning scope, it could easily be called a quartet, encountering two singularly talented artists in dialog with the actions and artefacts of nature and architecture. With one of their most engaging, unique, and politically releases to date, Room40 continues to push the envelope, challenging the very notions of what might make up the materiality and conceptual foundations of music. Absolutely stellar and not to be missed. Available on vinyl in a very limited edition. Once the word gets out, this one isn’t going to sit around for long.