Review: Andy C. Jenkins - Matsubara Conical (Sunshine Ltd, 2012)
It is not just mere coincidence that for a cover of his cassette, released by up-and-coming ambient Floridian label Sunshine Ltd. the American sound experimentalist Andy C. Jenkins used a photo of an installation of Japanese visual artist Shinya Aota. Just like Aota places ordinary, everyday objects (a bottle of detergent, a piece of pipe, a mosquito coil) in surprising configurations leading to their re-birth as works of art, Jenkins takes usual, everyday, sometimes even unwanted sounds and places them in new context, removing the status of “accidental sound” and bringing it to the more organized - musical - levels.
The music on the tape is an ever-changing and fluctuating kaleidoscope of sounds; by combining pulsing synthesizer drones, seemingly random guitar noodling, field recordings and found sounds Jenkins walks the path somewhere between cluttered electroacoustic improvisations and down-to-earth ambient music. The opening “Tone Poem” is a drifting, lethargic drone miniature that slowly delves into a GY!BE/Tim Hecker sort of distorted police radio/CB radio blabber, only to explode in sudden, brief yet intense, blast of guitar violence. Things kick off from there, with the deconstructed math folk of “Going to Gurgaon”, which sounds like a big Sunburned Hand of the Man jam that can never really take off, wasting its energy on a series of false starts.
One thing that is very distinctive about Matsubara Conical (and the releases of Sunshine Ltd in general) is how “lowercase” it sounds: the sound is never heavy nor bombast, it doesn’t impose itself on the listener, rather, it invites the listener to listen closely to the microscopic structures that constitute the tracks, the short, warped guitar/synth compositions that require (and reward) a heavily focused and repeated listening. With each listening there is more to be discovered: the j-card lists an impressive (and international) list of places, where various field recordings were taken from and cites a few tracks, from which the samples were taken. Once one gets deep into Matsubara Conical there comes a realization that there is so much more to it than just some simple, distorted guitar scales or a pulsing synthesizer patch. There’s always more sounds lurking in the background: modified, re-shaped, often muted or playing on the very barrier of hearing. Andy C. Jenkins rewards those who listen - those who listen instead of just hear.