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Roel Meelkop - (onkyo ok)

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Artist: Roel Meelkop

Album: (onkyo ok)

Label: CMR

Review date: Oct. 27, 2004

Dutch sound artist Roel Meelkop has been mining the same territory since the early ’80s, when he started the influential sonic art ensemble THU20. This transitional stage had Meelkop formulating and organizing his ideas on sound and contemplating how best to realize them. But it was only during the mid-’90s, through numerous collaborations with fellow electro-acoustic conspirators, such as Frans De Waard and Peter Duimelinks (who, together with Meelkop, form electronic rhythm group GOEM), along with the acquisition of a sampler and computer, that he was able to achieve the control and freedom he desired.

(onkyo ok), Meelkop’s debut outing for recently established New Zealand imprint CMR, is composed entirely from field recordings made during his summer tour of Japan in 2001. Ably assisted by Hitako Sakai and old buddy De Waard, Meelkop has directed his attention on Japan’s vast urban areas, entering the very heart of its great cities and surrounding regions. Unlike the work of, say, Chris Watson for Touch or Lawrence English for Room 40, the strength of Meelkop’s recordings is not in their clarity and immediacy, but rather in their opaqueness, rendering source materials unrecognizable. Life in a metropolis is condensed to a blurry rushing pulse and harsh thrum, as the sounds of daily life (trains, motorbikes, radio static, the human voice and the ever-popular pachinko parlors) vie for attention, before all noise artifacts will eventually cede to one, allowing the listener to focus on a specific object or happening. Such a delivery demands concentration from both the ears and mind, and prevents the listener from recreating the scene, often one of the treats of field recordings.

(onkyo ok serves as an interesting document of the Japanese landscape, taken as it was at the start of the 21st century, a sonic sketch of the very lifeblood that pulses through the arteries of that country’s great cities.

By Spencer Grady

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