The attenuated noise of Phillip Stearns‘ Autopoiesis – I isn’t a matter of drones, per se. At least the five “Structures,” labeled “I” (MP3) through “V” (MP3), do not burrow deep into singular sounds and coast in a den of intense sameness. Quite the contrary, though the sonics of these pieces, described briefly by Stearns as having been produced on “Mixer and FM transmitter feedback,” may initially sound narrow and amusical, even drone-like, they in fact change continuously. (FM transmission also serves as the link between him and the two other musicians, Aaron Drake and Cassia Streb, who make up the improv trio DSS.)
The pieces don’t end where they begin, but they make complete sense as they unfold, moving from raw noise through tortured slivers, sinuous sounds appearing below beeps that might be mistaken for violin or bag pipe, each entry clearly distinct from the others. In a warning attached to the recordings, Stearns says, “Please mind your listening volume as some of the tracks may cause damage to speakers and/or ears,” but one needn’t cue them up to full-ear assault to appreciate their richness. More info on Stearns, who is based in Los Angeles, at art-rash.com/pixelform.