Keranen - "Moon Over Torrelorca (excerpt)" (Moon Over Torrelorca)
Moon Over Torrelorca is not really an album. It’s a process. A picture of working and not a ‘work.’ The source material for it was recorded by Tommi Keränen on the Serge and Buchla modular synthesizers at Stockholm’s EMS, during a session that has already produced another album for the Finnish sound engineer / software designer / composer, 2010’s Bats in the Attic on Pica Disk. The recording heard on Moon..., however, is what he calls a derivative work of a multi-channel performance live performance at the 2010 Äänen Lumo festival in Helsinki. The spatialization of the performance is replaced with a dense stereo fog of groaning grey-scale tones that creates an engrossing, claustrophobic atmosphere. Where the Pica Disk album was action-heavy — packed tight with scrabbling synth noise and constant change — Moon... is about stasis, suspended tones, chasm-like low frequencies and subliminal spectral activity that hovers above the dark spaces carved out by the bass.
It’s also about creation. Its slow pace and live recording allows the presence — human, machine and acoustic — of the room to be heard. Throughout the piece you can hear plenty of action, mostly from the audience but Keränen as well: switches are flipped, cords are adjusted, people walk around, change jingles, doors open and close. It’s hard to say exactly what’s happening, but it comes off as the sound of thought, of an intangible phenomenon made audible but not really tangible. The effect is of a haunted music, one whose human origins are present but obscured. Contrary to the popular recent image of electronic musicians as fussy perfectionists with their laptops, the history of electronic music is filled with just the opposite. From Dub Taylor’s Lumière to Keith Fullerton Whitman’s recent run of live 12”s, imperfection is often what makes works like these more engaging.
And Moon Over Torrelorca is imperfect. The original performance was nearly two hours, but at one hour it’s still too long. All that shuffling and switching and fiddling at the bottom of the mix can be distracting. It has a gauzy, grainy fidelity that would be at home on a Noise cassette. But this sprawling, unfinished character gives Moon... its unique energy. It’s this raw energy, this aura of being similar to what Roberto Bolaño calls “the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze a path into the unknown,” that carries Moon... over its indulgences. Bolaño might be discussing literary works, but the sentiment easily applies here. Moon... could be edited down or it could be expanded. Transitions could be sharpened or the shifts made even more gradual and Radigue-like. In this imperfection, there is possibility. Tomorrow, it could be different. We’re not listening to this music, we’re listening in on it.