Reese Williams creates “slowly evolving fields of sound,” like the one showcased in the 33 minute live laptop improv, Great Horizontal. I recommend patience when coming into this piece. Williams says that much of his work is intended as part of installation art, so the idea of the thing is meant, perhaps, to be taken in atmospherically, and adapting to certain atmospheres can take time. I find that Great Horizontal doesn’t truly pique my interest until a shift in tone about 10 minutes along. Prior to that, it’s easy to dismiss as an experimental work constructed in a scattered pattern of relatively random sounds. That aspect comes and goes; you may find yourself trying to suss out of what Williams’ noises are made. Voices? Field recordings? The grunt and chirp of wrangled electronics? As I listen, I keep getting the sense of disparate things wanting to become a solitary thing, but the composer keeps them just apart enough to deny real cohesion. There’s a tension, a potential that could be recognized at any moment. It’s interesting to think that even within an improv, a composer must have some form of direction in mind, even if it changes in the moment, so where is Williams heading? While I am not a big fan of this work musically, I find myself very much intrigued in the idea of the thing, the spark that keeps jumping to touch off new, somehow connected moments. The noises can be as grating as they are intriguing, yet they never nudge into prosaic noise. As drones form out of the melted squelch and gurgle, I keep finding that although, again, this is not quite my kind of listening, Williams has created in me the idea that I might need to know where it all goes. I may not understand it, ever, but it will not be for a lack of peering into the sound. Each shift is another why and as they pile one on the next, I find that maybe I don’t really need to know. I have things to think about, and that seems enough. Thought-provoking, if somewhat inaccessible work that will only truly appeal to those who enjoy both improv and broad experimentation.
Available from Reese Williams’ Bandcamp page.