Steve Roden + Mem1 {A Floating Wave of Air}

Neural - Winter 2016
Mem1 are an experienced electroacoustic ensemble, heard here in collaboration with Steve Roden. The album, released on Estuary, seamlessly blends their respective contributions, drawing together the sounds of a modulated cello with gentle electronica, marrying analogue developments with digital effects obtained from small percussion and resonant found objects. The underlying logic is driven by an improvisational approach, also using instruments and vocals by Laura Cetilia. The tracks are free form, but in constant flux, moving through many emotional states and dimensions like a swarm of insects. The compositions are structures into six tracks, all intriguing and enjoyable. There is a consistency to the selected works; while each piece is permeated by surprising actions, these are still internally resonant, appropriate and well thought out.

Textura - September 2015
A Floating Wave of Air reveals sound artist Steve Roden and electro-acoustic outfit Mem1 (Mark and Laura Cetilia) to be natural collaborators, especially in the way the seventy-six-minute recording seamlessly blends the respective contributions of the those involved. Having operated as a cello-and-electronics duo for many years now, the Cetilias infuse their improv-based performances with the kind of telepathy one might expect from a married couple, and consequently the material they produce presents itself as an indissoluble whole. Certainly her cello sound is so distinct, it can't help but separate itself out from the total sound mass. Having said that, the two purposefully sidestep an approach that would see the cello treated as the solo instrument and electronics the backdrop; instead, the cello is exploited less for its melodic potential than its textural richness.

Roden works comfortably across many platforms and disciplines, among them painting, drawing, film/video, and sound installation, and would thus seem to be a perfect partner for the Cetilias. The three first collaborated in 2007 when he participated in Mem1's Ctrl+Alt+Repeat series, after which the collaborators recorded material a year later at the Bubble House, his painting studio, in Pasadena, California. Five years on from that session, the three recorded again, this time at Studio 205 in the Cetilias' adopted hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. With A Floating Wave of Air sequenced so that the three 2008 settings alternate with the three from 2012, the recording's six-part “The Uncertainties of Movement” makes for an interesting study in comparison and contrast. The surprise, however, is not how dramatically unlike but rather how complementary the material from the two sessions is. Of course there are differences from one piece to the next, yet the six sound as if they could have all originated out of a single session, not two five years apart.

Though Roden (acoustic objects and electronics), Mark (analog modular and electronics), and Laura (cello, voice, and electronics) contribute different instrument sounds, the results, as mentioned before, are heard less as conglomerations of individual bits and more as collective sum-totals produced by micro-organisms. The pieces, which range from seven minutes to twenty-two, are predictably explorative and receptive to the improvisatory impulses of each participant, all of who are clearly comfortable with shaping material as it develops in real time. The insistent “II” receives unexpected thrust from a metronomic bass pulse, alongside of which the three distribute cello plucks, ripples, tears, and various other textural elements, while “VI” emits a controlled howl of plucks, rumbles, smears, and mewlings for fourteen alien minutes. Striking too is the longest piece, “IV,” which begins as a rippling swarm of querulous voices whose supplications are gradually extinguished by a swelling mass of grime and static; humming insistently, the material undergoes constant changes in shape as it advances, with Laura's cello advancing to the forefront at one point as an aquatic gurgle. At various moments on the recording, her soft voice surfaces, its wordless murmur a humanizing presence and effective complement to the other elements.

A natural analogue to the incessant flow of these recordings is the insect colony, where it's the collective activity that dazzles as opposed to the movements of any one creature. As interesting as it would be to see a video document of Roden and Mem1 in action, it's ultimately better that we're deprived of knowing who's doing what at any given moment so that “The Uncertainties of Movement” can be experienced at the level of pure sound.

Bad Alchemy 87 - September 2015
Mit 'The Opening of the Field', 'Airforms' und 'Possible Landscapes' deutet Roden die lauschige Unbestimmtheit an, in die er, allein oder in Gesellschaft von Wanderfreunden wie Brandon LaBelle, Toy Bizarre, Bernhard Günter, Francisco López oder Machinefabriek, eindringt. Wobei Wandern schon zu viel gesagt ist, die Felder, die sich da auftun, sind, unfassbarer als Luft und Wasser, viel zu vage für grobe Füße. Auch 'The Uncertainties of Movement', die sechs Streifzüge, die er 2008 und 2013 unternommen hat zusammen mit dem Mem1-Couple Laura & Mark Cetilia, folgen lediglich krakeligen Linien oder Strichen in skizzenhaften Koordinatengittern als kryptischen 'Wanderkarten'. Mit psychogeo-graphischem Dèrive ist das allenfalls um drei Ecken verwandt. Es ist das eher das allmähliche Verfertigen weiterer Dimensionen um einen dünnen Faden herum, an dem sich Cello & Stimme, ein analoger Modularsynthesizer, Rodens acoustic objects und allgemein Electronics entlang tasten. Die Cetilias, die sich übrigens 2003 bei Roden in L.A. kennengelernt haben, sind inzwischen in Rhode Island mit Estuary Ltd. in Providence und der Konzertreihe Ctrl+Alt+Repeat in Pawtucket profilierte Verfechter grenzverletzender Elektroakustik. So auch mit hier. ('I') Rubbelige und hechelnde Verschleifungen und spitzes Pizzikato lösen kakophone ebenso wie sonore Dröhnwellen aus. Und kläfft da nicht ein kleiner Hund? ('II') Zu einem wummrigen Zitterpuls kommen ein heller und ein furzeliger dazu, dazu pumpt schneller Herzschlag, akzentuiert mit einem metallioden Plonken, zarter Vokalisation und zartem Flöten. ('III') Zu wie geblasenen, tröpfeligen, rostigen und knarzigen Lauten ertönen Rufe, aber wie von Vinyl gescratcht, wobei das nun auch von schnarchenden Cellostrichen und gesummtem Singsang durchsetzte Ganze sich anhört wie aus Loops gefügt und in Traumflüssigkeit getaucht. ('IV') In knurschendes Vinyl mischt sich Wolfs- oder Windgeheul, mit einer dröhnenden, pfeifenden Bewegung, die sich zu einer Flatterwelle verdichtet und wieder entspannt zu einem pfeifenden Pulsieren mit Cellobeiklang und zuletzt auch wieder Singsang. Pulsierend, sich drehend, atmend, driftend verlieren Menschliches, Naturhaftes und Maschinelles die Konturen. Besonders schön gelingt das bei 'V', wenn sich aus Krimskramerei harmonische Cellowellen und -pizzikato herausschälen, erneut zu vokalisiertem Lullaby. Bei 'VI' erschallen tutende Hörner über knarrenden Fröschen und Harmonikaklang, der im Wind bibbert. Wieder knurscht Vinyl wie Harsch, wieder spielen imaginäre Wölfchen Flöte, spielt der Regen Cello. Aber wohin führt das, wenn man Wölfe mit Flöten, Frauen mit Hüten und Ruß mit Schnee verwechselt? -Rigobert Dittman

Loop - October 2015
Steve Roden is a sound and visual artist from Los Angeles. His works include painting, drawing, sculpture, film and video, sound installations and live performances. Between 1979 and 1982 Roden was the lead singer of the punk band Seditionaries and in 1997 began his career in sound art. He has released over thirty albums and EP's as solo artist and in collaboration with other artists.

Mem1 composed by Mark and Laura Cetilia combine electronics and cello started in the world of sonic exploration in Los Angeles in 2003. Both are curators of experimental music series Ctrl+Alt+Repeat and the record label Estuary Ltd. Steve Roden on acoustic objects and electronics, Mark Cetilia analog modular and electronics and Laura Cetilia on cello, voice and electronics collaborated for the first in 2008 and in 2013, both are included in this CD.

'A Floating Wave of Air' display tracks in which unfolds microscopic sound waves, ripples, cello plucks and found objects which are electronically manipulated. The unnerving atmospheres as on 'IV' combine voices that emit howls that come together with dense cosmic dust and a cello producing sustained drones.

Certain harmony hovers in cello plucks and Laura’s whispering voice on 'V' suggest a melancholic and hesitant piece which appears to be the epilogue of a story. Amazing album that provide subtle textures and environments. 5 / 5 -Guillermo Escudero

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