Francisco López / Scott Arford

"Solid State Flesh / Solid State Sex"
(double-CD Low Impedance, 2005)

This double CD pairs two of the most eminent manipulators of expansions and contractions born from a competent work on electroacoustic derivations. In "SSF", Lopez explores a vast dynamic range, his phenomenal experience on the thresholds of audibility partially put aside in favour of a painstaking process of impressive modifications and overwhelming energies whose effect is comparable to a separation of your senses. Torrents of electricity, pumping lows and shattering vibrations take this music to the highest level of magnitude, putting Lopez's work in the same rank of John Duncan's and Daniel Menche's best; this is one of the most complete compositions I've heard from Francisco, his controlled disorder also being a powerful means of self-introspection. Arford's "SSS" fuses more concrete sources with equally awesome low-frequency engineering; as opposed to his Spanish counterpart, Scott's scenarios change abruptly, often surprisingly after our psyche is lulled during long moments of semi-displacement. Arford places his morphing sounds in an evolving framework of resonant interferences, hisses and utterances that have "anxiousness" spelled all over the place. Getting the brain and the auricular membranes used to this shifting bubbling takes its time - but once you learn going with this overloaded flow, the reward in terms of nerve power is a sure thing. (Italy), 2005

A masterpiece of pharmacoustic minimal hypno-narcotic ambience!
Siegmar Fricke (Germany), 2005

This is of course how these things go. Last week we reviewed a new Scott Arford and noted that he doesn't have that many releases and now a week later, we can review a double CD of collaborative work he did with Francisco Lopez. It's been a while since I last heard a studio recording by Senor Lopez, and was quite surprised to hear this. Apparently it deals with electricity, recordings thereof, me thinks. Lopez' seventy-two minute piece 'Solid State Flesh' is quite different than much of other studio works, as most of the time it is quite presently there, even when the volume drops dramatically. That's the second difference with much of his previous work: Lopez uses the form of sound collage here, cutting abruptly from one section into another. The music feels less organic than before, probably due to the nature of the recordings used. However, lesser organic or not, it's very solid (pun intended) piece of music, of changing atmospheres and moods.
Scott Arford's disc is called 'Solid State Sex' and sort of sounds similar to Lopez's work (I guess this depends on which disc ones plays first), except that Arford has clearly divided his tracks into tracks. In each of them he searches for a specific idea or sound, and works that out into a specific track, before moving on to the next track. Another difference is that Arford never leaps into the really soft territory (although Lopez doesn't either that much) and in general sounds a bit meaner than Lopez. But he does a very fine job, much along similar lines as 'Radio Station', reviewed last week. A very match these two.
Vital Weekly (The Netherlands, 2005)

Francisco López and Scott Arford bring considerable reputations to this daunting opus from the Greek label Low Impedance. López has amassed a catalog of more than 140 minimal electroacoustic sound works (issued on 100 record labels) which collectively document his attempt to "reach an ideal of absolute concrète music." A leading new media arts figure in the San Francisco Bay Area and instructor at the California College of Arts, Arford has created numerous sound and video works and was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2005 Prix Ars Electronica. On their respective discs, López and Scott Arford transform electrical flow into alternately quiet and sometimes humungous slabs of steely, prickly sound.
One might expect a piece of 73-minute duration to exhaust one's patience yet "Solid State Flesh," López's methodically modulated monolith, remains engrossing throughout. Though segues from one episode to another transpire slowly, López never succumbs to cheap theatrics (e.g., bludgeoning the listener with sudden blasts) but assumes the listener will be patient enough to stay with the piece throughout its unfolding. Imagine the sonic center of a maelstrom and you'll have some idea of the relentless swirling mass of thrum López generates in the opening section when a detonation transforms soft rumbles and ripples into a seething tornado. The piece intermittently drops to near-silent levels before incrementally building to episodes of churning violence at the 27-minute mark and buzzing noise and thrum after 53 minutes. Eventually deflating to industrial hum that echoes and fades to oblivion, "Solid State Flesh" impresses as a masterful exercise in controlled sound manipulation.
Formally split into six separately titled pieces, Arford's "Solid State Sex" might appear to be the more episodic of the two discs but Lopez's is equally so, despite it having a single title. There is, however, a noticeable difference in mood with Arford's material the more aggressive of the two. The unsettling "Discharge," for example, puts the listener on edge immediately with grinding drones of rattlesnake thrum and knife-edged ruptures of metallic sound, even if a calmer mood prevails during "Strange Attractor" with its quieter gurgles and soft rumbles. "Aluminum Airway" keeps up a seething beehive of activity throughout its twelve minutes while sparse streams of microwave pops grow into tsunami of screeching static in "Point Loads and Surfaces." A veritable alarm announces the onset of "CME (Coronal Mass Ejection)" before a deafening ringing drone gradually rises to nightmarish and harrowing levels.
The precise relationship between the "Solid State Flesh" and "Solid State Sex" titles and the aural content is obscure but what's inarguably clear is the uncompromising and challenging character of the artists' sound design., 2005

Perhaps it took Scott Arford winning honorable mention at the 2005 Ars Electronica to get this split release with Francisco Lopez to come out. These two pieces were originally recorded back in 2002 and had been slated for release by a couple of different labels, until Low Impedence had the sense to finally just do it. Curiously enough, this is one of several releases to come pouring out of Arford's 7hz studios after a couple of years of silence. Electricity appears to the source material and subject matter for the two composers on Solid State Flesh & Solid State Sex. The latter is the work of Mr. Arford who has always had a penchant for hard, blistered noises and cacophonic feedback squallor; and those sounds are heavily featured here punctuating the deadened buzz of smoldering electricity. It's hard to think of this as being sexy music or even sexual music given the electrocutionist throb of Arford's sounds, thus lending to plenty of transgressive readings if you're so inclined. On the slightly more voluptuous Solid State Flesh, Lopez expands the monotone of 60 cycle hums and the hissing buzz of electrical static through his signature compositional strategy of slow-burning tumult which abruptly halt and annouce a prolonged passage of inactivity. Unlike some of his Belle Confusion pieces, Solid State Flesh adds a considerable menace to his self-professed absolute concrete, but nevertheless is very well done and an excellent companion to Arford's work.
Aquarius Records, (USA, 2005)

Quarta uscita per la Low Impedance Recordings, nuova etichetta greca dedita a sperimentazioni elettroniche piuttosto eterogenee. Le uscite precedenti riguardano composizioni di Kapotek, Pridon e Tokyo Mask, artisti dediti, a quanto pare, a elaborazioni post-drum'n'bass e a vari sintetismi analogici che non ho avuto il piacere di ascoltare. La nuova uscita è un doppio CD split di due nomi associati a sperimentazioni audio (e video, nel caso di Arford) inerenti la natura fisica del suono, e i modi in cui questo viene vissuto ed "assorbito".
La ricerca di Francisco Lopez è mirata a "raggiungere un ideale di assoluta musica concreta". Artista ultraprolifico con oltre 170 lavori, Lopez cerca il suono puro, privato di ogni altra distrazione. A tale scopo, ad esempio, in passato ha preparato luoghi totalmente scuri, antiriflettenti, in cui gli spettatori voltano le spalle all'esecutore. L'esecutore stesso è non visibile, nascosto da una tenda nera centrale. Ancora, non potendo eliminare le fastidiose luci delle latrine e delle uscite di sicurezza presenti in ogni locale pubblico, Lopez ha anche fornito bende per ogni ascoltatore. E' un processo sottrattivo, volto ad eliminare con logica ogni aspetto estraneo alla fisicita' del suono, dagli egocentrismi assurdi degli esecutori fino ad ogni altra regola preimposta. Quello che resta e' un insieme di frequenze continue: un suono magmatico, basso, spoglio, corposo, veloce, lento, inaccessibile, a volte con tagli bruschi, imprevedibili. Onde e folate, sibili, rumori bianchi e delicati, pulsazioni, interazioni fisiche. Ogni parola è solo mera descrizione, vuota, non correlata al suono in se. Brano unico di 1h 12m 58s, registrato a Montreal nel 2004, Solid State Flesh è un suono di grande fascino, rigore, bellezza ed onestà intellettuale. Un ascolto disimpegnato di questa opera appare assolutamente improprio. Chiudendo gli occhi ed isolandosi dentro l'astrazione dell'oggetto, lo si assorbe. In qualche modo ci ricolleghiamo ai field recording, punto di partenza del nostro.
Le registrazioni di Scott Arford sono timbricamente simili. Il suono è meno organico, ed è forse da ricollegare alle ricerche sulla trasmutazione del suono in forza fisica recentemente condotte da Arford. Le registrazioni sono state effettuate nel 2002, live al 7Hz di San Francisco, spazio da lui stesso fondato. Sei brani, poco meno di un'ora di durata. Basse frequenze e potenti ronzii elettrostatici (60 Hz) la fanno da padrone nel primo brano, in modo continuo. Esse ritornano più o meno in tutta la durata del CD, spesso con potenza devastante, come ad esempio nel quinto e soprattutto nel quarto brano, dove assumono la forma di impulsi a-ritmici. L'estetica appare completamente abbattuta. Scariche di rumori si accavallano di continuo. Il secondo brano ricorda certi suoni di Iso-Erotic Calibrations dei T.A.G.C. (The Anti-group), con echi metallici, rombi a bassa frequenza e forse qualche field recording sparsi ovunque. Il terzo movimento aggiunge rumore bianco ed altri echi metallici. L'ultimo ha le sembianze di un'industria in pausa.
Ad entrambi gli artisti, ed in particolare a Scott Arford, il medium "compact disc" va stretto. Il loro luogo naturale è uno spazio fisico adeguatamente preparato.
Un ascolto assai importante, e forse fondamentale, dentro il ruolo dell'oggetto "suono"., 2005

Scott Arford’s new release, Solid State Sex, on Low Impedence, is packaged as a double disc with Francisco Lopez’s Solid State Flesh. Lopez’s piece, a 73-minute track of low frequency trembling that rises and falls in volume, sets off Arford’s shorter, more composed explorations in the nature of static. These artists inhabit the international academic-noise milieu, a genre so abstract that it seems monolithic, so placing them side-by-side brings valuable variation to the fore.
Like Lopez, Arford is an academic, but in art rather than entomology. His Static Rooms series of installations draws aural static from color-field video compositions. Arford describes the experience as synesthetic: viewers hear color and see sound. Another piece, the conceptual Total Static Takeover declares “that from this day forward, April 13, 2003, all instances in which the phenomena of VIDEO STATIC occurs shall be constituted as a screening, partial screening, or instance of the video TOTAL STATIC TAKEOVER.”
Arford describes static as “paradoxically at once infinitely in motion, yet fundamentally unchanging;” Solid State Sex can be heard as a demonstration of this duality. Its six component pieces, recorded live from 2001-02, are united by static’s grainy, fuzzy quickness, yet they vary in overall effect and composition. Pieces like “Aluminum Airway” incorporate calm washes of high-frequency shimmer. The following track, “Point Loads and Surfaces,” diverges extremely with spaced-out, rhythmic static taps, ranging from popcorn kernels to gunshots. It’s the most beautiful piece on the album.
After the playfulness of “Point Loads and Surfaces,” we move on to “Dirty Power,” a grumbling beastly rant, like grizzly bears killing under northern lights. In three consecutive tracks, Arford has sculpted lowly static into three discrete moods.
Solid State Sex isn’t synesthetic like Static Rooms, but it conjures flickering mental images through noise. This quality is cast in relief by Lopez’s Solid State Flesh, which decontextualizes sounds taken from nature. Bundled together, the projects of these two artists are diametrically opposed. Arford is interested in sounds generated by visuals and visuals generated by sounds, a duality that reaches its apotheosis in synesthesia and is symbolized by static. Lopez seeks pure sound, one medium unpolluted by any other. By Josie Clowney
Dusted (USA, 2006)

Scott Arford

"Radio Station"
(CD, Antifrost, 2005)

Shortwave music bears lots of intriguing contrasts: we experience apprehension and relaxation in equal measure, according to the matching of timbral colours, the element of surprise, the composer's attitude towards the exploitation of a pure source in opposition to heavy studio treatment. In this sense, "Radio station" by Scott Arford is a very balanced album; the sounds are thoroughly captivating in their non-confrontational homogeneity, yet maintain a halo of secrecy which distances the overall result from what one could expect from similarly conceived works. Developing a personal aesthetic which finds common elements with the experiments by John Duncan and Daniel Menche - particularly in the use of conglomerates of throbbing pulses and sub-frequency vibrations - Arford manages to highlight the most inherent "musical" nature of a highly fascinating cause of aural enjoyment. (Italy), 2005

In the Bay area he's quite well-known, Scott Arford, operator of the 7HZ label, video artist, musician and collaborator of Francisco Lopez, Randy Yau and Micheal Nine. His output however is quite small. 'Radio Station' is his latest work, and it deals with one of the easiest to obtain sound sources: radio sounds. Not the speech type, or plunderphonica, but everything in between the stations - the cracks, the static, the hiss. Arford is not a sensitive man: whatever he finds on the radio waves he uses, but with a high intensity. His work is not about careful, delicate sounds, but a rather forceful, mean and loud mixture of waves crumbling over each-other, falling apart, chopped up. Not really moments of silence and contemplation here, but on the other hand, Arford isn't interested in doing 'just' a bunch of noise either. He knows how to make a strong, vivid collage of sound out of these radio station and how to make a forceful, interesting piece of music. Energetic and present.The use of radio sounds may not be entirely new, the results of Arford are certainly very very nice.
Vital Weekly (The Netherlands, 2005)

Tune into the shortwave bands in and around San Francisco and you're likely to discover little more than static, hiss and electrical interference broken up by an occasional transmission from a libertarian wacko in the Santa Cruz mountains. Scott Arford has spent his entire carrer manipulating a similar static from televisions in his searing audiovisual installations ans perdormances, so it makes perfect sense for him to begin investigating his hometown's cracked ether. Just as he does through his jacked up TV's, he seeks only the most caustic radio signals as his source material and aggresively cobbles together jagged layers of hotwired sound. In many ways, Arford picks up where John Duncan and Daniel Menche - particularly in the use of conglomerates of throbbing pulses and sub-frequency vibrations - Arford manages to highlight the most inherent "musical" nature of a highly fascinating cause of aural enjoyment. Jim Haynes
The Wire (UK), 2006

Scott ARTFORD, musicien résident à San Francisco manipule depuis une poignée d'années les problématiques autour des médias, de leur usage et des procédés d'émissions attenants. Il participe, aux côtés d'autres intervenants du son (Daniel Menche, Joe Colley, Francisco Lopez, Zbgniew Karkowski, Masako Tanaka, Tom Novak, etc. à creuser la matière du son, à en repousser les frontières, à en " borner " les limites. Ici, comme pour la toute récente double compilation de Cronica, Artford expérimente sur la radio, explore les strates parallèles des sonorités (et des non-sonorités) qui s'y cachent, traquent les no man's land sonores de bruits blancs entre chaque plage pour construire son projet. Excessivement expérimentales, ses pièces n'en demeurent pas moins narratives dans leur déroulement, privilégiant une sorte de cinématique de teintes sépias.
Jade (France), 2005

One of the leading figures of new media arts in the San Francisco Bay Area, Scott Arford, released a noise album on the label Antifrost. Radiostation as it is called, contains no easy-listening music, but digitalized noise that seems to come in fast and resolute streams. The third track seems to offer some occasional voice samples (scanned space travel conversations) hidden in the background. All kind of static noise frequencies have been structured into turbulent streams. The listener has no clue what the origins of the sounds used are, but the overall impression is that of digitalized dust storms and outerworld sound combinations.
Phosphor (Netherlands, Germany), 2006

Scott Arford / Randy H.Y. Yau

"Edit for Unconsciousness"
(CD Auscultare Research, 2001)

Sound/video artist Scott Arford (7hz, Radiosconde) and audio artist/sound curator Randy H.Y. Yau (23five Incorporated) have collaborated on a wired recording of intense depth. The four tracks on Edit for Unconsciousness evidence a rambling range of sensibility with a hint of Tetuo Furudate here and a dollop of Kapotte Muziek there. Arford’s "Drift Counter" is a white wash of buzzer noise and open mic sizzle. At about 23 minutes the isolated energy of the mower-like sonics freeze my subconscious for a moment and stir-fry it back up again. Working in multimedia these gentlemen have collaborated on a work that uses mid-tones of feedback to inform, not shock and destroy. The title has film/video references as I could imagine this extended sound mirage as being integral to a performance piece including dance, light and the moving image (however slowly). Drops of threatening noise taunt in Yau’s long-player "Second Coming," like a griddling of some type of hovering being that gets caught in the radiant glow of drone. The track climaxes to a gas-like explosion which melts all in its course to the din of reverberation. Edit for Unconsciousness also includes Arford’s barely grounded "Headworms," originally released as part of a split mini-CD with the Haters. The piece has a molten core slow-roasting all in/outputs. Yau’s "Realia" opens this recording with a quick-cut-up cum slow perk approach. Its mild side is nothing if not an eerie message from a force outside of our realm. Suddenly the plug is pulled and wavers out in slow motion. The drama invigorates and has the ability to give you the shakes – play this one loud for full-on bravado! T.J. Norris
Igloo Magazine (USA), 2006

In response to the incendiary buzzes and periodic electrified gasps of sharp noise emanating from the stereo at the front of the store, Andee had to wonder if Aquarius had unbeknownst to him started offering free tattoos with every purchase. Unfortunately, such a service is out of our league (sorry) and the noises in question originated from the exceptional split release from Bay Area composers Scott Arford (aka Radiosonde) and Randy Yau. As directors for the 23five sound arts organization, Arford and Yau have been quite active promoting an assortment of experimental and noise artists through their annual 'Activating The Media' festivals and the sporadic performances at 7Hz. Their "Edit For Unconsciousness" disc proves that Arford and Yau are not merely noble benefactors, but also worthy sonic comrades with John Duncan, Zbigniew Karkowski, and Francisco Lopez (all of whom have graced San Francisco with 23five's help).
Yau opens the procedings with a muscular application of the Carsten Nicolai / Mika Vainio glitch, as jagged static cracklings collapse into low end rumblings and nervous electrical tones. Arford's follow-up incorporates similarly tense cracklings, but releases them into expansive swells of grey noise. Gradually the record's tension disperses and the lines between whose sound is whose dissolve, as the electrical hissing previously mentioned as replicating the rapid machinations from a tattoo gun slowly take over, softening further into hypnotic vibrations. Very impressive.
Aquarius Records, (USA)

Scott Arford / Randy H.Y. Yau / Michael Nine

(CD Auscultare Research, 2001)

Operating in the legendary Cyclone warehouse space near Hunter's Point in San Francisco, 7hz has functioned as one of the few SF venues that is exclusively dedicated to experimental sound art, and also has served as the live / work spaces (in the truest sense of the term) for Scott Arford (aka Radiosonde), Randy Yau (23five), and Michael Nine (aka Death Squad). During the fall of 2002, 7hz took their show on the road, as Arford, Yau, and Nine embarked on a European tour. This disc is essentially the tour support album, offering an exclusive sampling of each artist's work. Arford's sonic reconstitutions of video static have made for stunning audio / visual performances (almost unheard of in the visually sterile realm of laptop composition). Here, his contributions spit forth digitally corrosive bits of static and noise (which resemble remote control / shortwave detritus) along mechanized grids. Altogether, Arford's tracks resemble the pained electric noise of those collaborations between Zbigniew Karkowski and Pita Rehberg. Yau defines his work as an "action concrete," in which recordings of impromptu vocal outbursts have been dissected and reanimated through a number of electro-acoustic techniques, often sounding like a mutation of Robert Ashley's classic "Automatic Writing" with far more jarring and confrontational results. Michael Nine's work comes out of the Whitehouse / Con-Dom approach of primitive noise assaults as transgressive theater. All in all, an excellent introduction to these San Francisco artists.
Aquarius Records, (USA)


"Meter Sickness"
(CD, Ground Fault, 1999)

The finest album of 1999 [Rating 5 Stars]
The man who gave us the best CD of 1998 weighs in with his 1999 release. It begs us to ask the question: when your debut album becomes the standard in its field, where do you go from there? And make no mistake, Somnambul is the finest album of drone that's ever been released, dark, ominous, and staggeringly brilliant in its minimalism. Scott Arford gave us a hint of what direction Radiosonde was taking in his two contributions to the Prosthetics compilation late last year, which weaved rhythm in and out of the drone. Here, we get an album that's half and half or thereabouts. And with this album, the question is answered: "do a hundred eighty degree turn and experiment with something completely new."
It's hard to look at Meter Sickness and not compare it to Somnambul, even if the first half of the new disc is like comparing Granny Smiths to Golden Delicious. The album roars open with "zombi," an homage to all those really bad Italian flicks that Goblin did the music for. And this track sounds kind of like what Carpenter and Argento turned out, but distorted and filtered until the cheesy synthesizer has been pased out and all you have is the staticky rhythm track and some very, very mixed down, badly-dubbed hysterical teenagers traipsing around an island being stalked by the living, flesh-eating dead. Do I love this track? Almost as much as I love the films of Lucio Fulci. The next two tracks continue on in the same vein; "Pilot" is even-- dare I say?-- danceable, almost.
Then, suddenly, the album reverts to drone, and Arford is back on the ground where he's the expert. It shows. "Inhalants" has echoes of "Depth Finder" in its insistent, unrelenting presence, and then "M-Theory" and "No Solutions" gradually take the album into what can only be described as a denoument, which fades off into the distance.
As Arford grows more comfortable with rhythmic noise, I have little doubt that he will grow to reign in that area, as well. And as it stands, he's already ahead of most of the competition.
Robert Beverage

San Francisco based film and audio artist Scott Arford, and his project RADIOSONDE, has been making truly capturing and vibrant noise compositions in the Northern California area for quite sometime now...sometimes for live performances..and sometimes not..Arford never fails to find something simple and semi-mechanical to extort with distortion to create his own personal soundtracks to life...this collection of studio recordings done for Ground Fault recordings is an excellent example of his work and the power his soundscapes produce..the 1st cut, "Zombi", is very creey and is filled with sounds similar to machine gun fire..combined with a layers of distortion to create sort of a tunnel effect. Close your eyes and imagine your dropping rapidly on some sort of evil elevator to hell. The next cut, "Pilot" (belly-up mix), is again very creepy in it's overall intonation..but with more rythym..this track has the most "soundtrack" like feeling on these disc. Next up, "Dead Weight", features a guest appearance by Michael Contreras of DEATH SQUAD making additional sounds..this cut is being taped to the wheels of a rollercoaster.. heavy, loud, grinding, buidling, and then stopping abruptly. really nice. Cut 4, "inhalants", is pretty long.. it sorta at first reminded me of some of the more mellower stuff from MERZBOW..very digital like distortion layered in feedback..lots of neat high frequencies looping around like flies in your builds and then heavy dance beats are added for just enough time to make you start getting into the groove of them being there.. and then they are stripped away and you are returned back to the droning electronic hums of before.. a very well named track. "M-Theory" is my favorite on this is the dance track..true industrial dance music at its most basic and primal core.. the sound of a record ending..loud bump of the needle against the groove end...complete with record static...looped and amplified to the max..add other loops of crunching and scraping over the top in un-even patterns..very cool and very chaotic. I like this cut alot. The last cut, "no solutions", is also very well named.. another track using amplified record static, combined with a very haunting, low echoing, machine-like rhythm...very minimal..very trancy..nearly put me into a dream-state..very nice..hidden voices appear throughout the cut and appear alone at the very end adding to the haunting feel of the track. This is a really amazing CD from RADIOSONDE.. i hope there is more like this to come in the future. -- [LOB]
Caution (USA)