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emptyset reveiwed in the quietus.
Last week, Bristol duo Emptyset released a brand new 12", their first for Berlin-based label Raster-Noton, entitled Collapsed. It's their follow-up to the Medium EP, released at the beginning of this year through Bristol's Subtext, and which found the duo - consisting of Paul Purgas and James Ginzburg - recording in an unfinished mansion, using blasts of static, distortion and feedback to trigger the entire building to resonate.
This new EP, they explained in an interview due to be published on the Quietus next week, found them shifting their approach to try and produce rhythmic music that was always in a dynamic process of change, and never quite repeated itself.
"We began to think about whether or not we could move beyond the idea of a measure of rhythm and repetition of that measure," said Ginzburg, "and if we could think about things more in terms of rhythmic events and a kind of causality that determined when those events would play out, happen, or emerge . . . I think the title track of the EP was approaching that moment where we managed to find a way of creating a rhythmical structure that, while it didn't repeat, you always had the sense of it being coherent."
The results are starker, more fluid and more abrasive than anything the duo have yet released, the EP's four tracks drawing connections both to fellow Bristol residents like Roly Porter (and his previous project Vex'd) and outward to the carefully sculpted fusions of static, noise and rhythm that define the work of Raster-Noton label heads Alva Noto and Byetone.
The video for 'Collapse', which you can watch above, found them working with Clayton Welham and Sam Williams to match the track's audio - which is produced by running a series of basic building blocks, like sine waves and noise, though a long signal chain of effects and processors - in a visual form.
The description for the video runs as follows: "The video for 'Collapse' looks to match the sequence of processes and distortions within the audio, by affecting footage and animation through a series of analogue junctions. As a means of synchronising sound and image an electromagnetic coil was used, which when triggered by the audio outputted from a power amp created corresponding visual distortions. This resulted in the audio directly driving and shaping the signal itself. A cube was used as a structure that could be collapsed throughout the video, shifting from solidity to a series of disparate distorted planes, still locked to the sound but no longer contained in their original state. This work is currently being developed for a live context, expanding on the performative possibilities of signal processing, distortion and transmission."
During the interview, they explained a little about the back-and-forth process with Welham and Williams to find a way of directly translating the audio into visual output. "We've been experimenting with ways of transposing audio signals into I guess magnetic or electrical signals that we can use to modulate things like CRTs," said Ginzburg. "We're working with an electrical engineer, a studio engineer in Bristol called Matt Sampson, and when it comes to mechanical and electrical things he really understands where we're coming from and has a superlative capacity for design. He's created some tools for us to use in order to provide Clayton with ways of translating what we're doing sonically into a visual sphere, through the modes he's already using of generating content, which has become the basis of the video for 'Collapse'. It's become incredibly exciting for us to watch that process unfold, because it took us about 3 or 4 months to actually get it to work, and it was really frustrating sending bits of equipment back and forth. We'd plug stuff in, and it wouldn't work. But when the eureka moment happened, and we finally got it to work and we started being able to work with it, within a few days they started sending us the results - then it was that moment where the cube became a shape we'd never seen before - so we were really happy with the results."