I’ve never really known what to think of Michael Esposito. Whether he undertakes his EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) recordings with an archival or artistic approach (and, more to the point, whether his understanding of the phenomena themselves is spiritual or sociological) is perhaps irrelevant to the impact of his work. Deeply emotionally charged, often without much beyond simple editing and repeating of recorded samples, there is a thorough understanding of our collective personification of natural events, and a curiosity for how the spoken and unspoken histories of people and places are made apparent externally and internally.
Straying a bit from his usual recording methods, it is largely the latter process – internal vocalizations (figuratively and literally) of an accretion of history – that this series of recordings is concerned with.
The 7″ vinyl EP documents solo works from an installation in 2011 at the Kristianstad Center for Contemporary Art by Esposito, Elggren and Svensson. It is, it should be said immediately, packaged in a pleasingly precisely manufactured box with insert and gallery documentation (who among us is not, at least occasionally, a hopeless materialist?). The sounds within are not nearly as crystalline. Though no vocals are obviously present within the three pieces, there is an intensely organic character to the sounds. Unsurprising, as each performer utilized recordings of bodily functions to produce them. However, one also gets the sense of something supra-natural at play. Whether a byproduct of my familiarity with (in particular) Esposito’s oeuvre, the unnatural and amplification of natural sounds, or some other quality of the pieces is very much up for debate. Cliched it may be, but there is a haunting effect produced by the muddled fidelity, the heavily amplified scrapings and nudges of the microphones, the scratchy high-end. It is hard to describe the palette of sounds used, as such terms of caricature fail to do this excellent work justice.
More recently released material from the same installation appears on Inner Voices Live – an improvised (?) piece performed at the exhibit’s opening by the trio alongside the vocals of Freddie Wadling, and an edited collection of EVP’s. The latter is a fairly standard, if unsettling composition of Esposito’s with the help of Per Svensson and Leif Elggren, but it is the former which impresses the most.
The first section opens with a similar dynamic range to the EP, with the addition of poor stereo separation and a chorus of coughs, cries and shuffling feet and jackets. I was midway through deciding whether the recording was merely done as an obvious afterthought, or if it was recorded to such low fidelity on purpose (and more importantly, how said quality impacted the presentation of the music itself – bringing simultaneously a distance from the action and a veneer of authenticity in its intent of capturing sounds otherwise unheard), when a soft pop suddenly switched the recording field completely. Here was the quality of a true archival recording.
Now unsure of which to prefer, the listener is (fortunately?) tossed from one to the other and back to other intermediate and indeterminate positions not infrequently for the remainder of the piece. In all cases the result is subjected to the murmurs and shifts of the audience, adding a tangible and entirely appropriate restlessness to the recording. Wadling’s spoken words are decidedly undecipherable, as though aping Elggren’s and Esposito’s audio culls of EVPs. This is very much indicative of the performance as a whole – a purposeful invocation of, and homage to, the incidental sounds and voices of electronic voice phenomena, which by its very performance questions the source and intent of just those found sounds.
Highly recommended work. The 7″ is still available from Firework Editions Records. The single-sided live LP seems to be either sold out, or not yet released by Olof Bright. You may also try contacting Michael Esposito himself (by searching for other works of his on Discogs – which is how I got my copy). You couldn’t ask for a friendlier artist.