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Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe’s incredible recordings with Harry Bertoia’s sound sculptures are here documented on a beautiful new edition for Demdike Stare’s DDS imprint, coinciding with his appearance on the cover of this months issue of The Wire magazine.
Lowe is something of a polymath; having started out as part of Math Rock outfit 90 Day Men and doom metal trio Om, he progressed to forge his own solo work (often under the Lichens moniker), as well as a slew of collaborations including work with Johann Johannsson on scoring both Arrival and Sicario, an acclaimed album with Ariel Kalma for RVNG Intl’s FRKWYS series, plus involvement in site specific video art and sound installations. His most recent work has seen him release diverse music for Type, Latency, More Than Human and, of course DDS - who have here presented what might just be the most beautiful Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe artefact thus far.
in 2016 Lowe was commissioned by New York’s museum of Arts to contribute to a Harry Bertoia exhibition, which he undertook alongside video director Johann Rashid. He was asked to create sound recordings with Sonambient sculptures; metal rods and gongs that produce highly distinct, resonant sounds when struck, brushed or touched. Beginning in 1968, Bertoia set up an eighteenth-century stone barn on his property in Barto, Pennsylvania, to house these sculptures and from which he would go on to record works for his highly collectable Sonambient label, recently documented on Important Records' breathtaking box set and reissue series. Lowe was given full access to the barn, beautifully filmed footage of which can be found online.
Lowe’s work with these sculptures is unlike anything you might have heard from the original Bertoia recordings. Instead of serendipitous improvisation, Lowe weaves his way through the sculptures on a path that was mapped out in advance, imbuing them with a more “composed” and arranged feel.
As he explains to The Wire “The technique I developed in engaging with those sculptures was different than the ways i’d seen other people do it. It was sublime to be in that space with the air touching the sculptures and moving them, you had these sort of apparitions that were moving around with you”. As well as the familiar Sonambient sound palette, he subtly manipulates and feeds in vocal layers that take proceedings into ever more ethereal and haunting dimensions.
It’s a beautiful, inspirational recording from an artist that’s impossible to pin down. "i don't give a fuck. i do what i do, and that’s the end of it”.