'Black Immure: {Music from the Casa de Serralves in 12 phases}' CD

Janek Schaefer
Sirr.ecords [SIRR 2010]
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.Play sample: Piano Phase: [with Real Audio]

Track Listing:
One improvised composition [12 divisions]

Running time: One Hour
Released Jan 2003

 

Press Release

Twilight Concert
Casa de Serralves, Porto, Portugal
29th June 2002

For this recording, I spent 3 days collecting, manipulating and editing sounds found in and around the Casa de Serralves and the Museu de Arte Contemporanea Serralves. The Casa is located in the museums landscaped gardens and had a superb natural reverb.
For the concert this material was performed and combined with locally purchased ‘Portuguese’ vinyl and recordings made using their Steinway piano. During the performance I physically 'played' the building by slowly winding down the enormous shutters and windows to envelop the audience in darkness. ‘Immure’ means to enclose within walls, to incarcerate. Towards the end of the concert I opened the terrace shutters and doors behind me as a sound reactive light installation cast shadows and light into the interior. I ended by running out into the moonlit garden away from the villa and audience as the final sounds flickered and faded away leaving them in silence, alone.

Commissioned by Pedro Rocha at the Serralves Foundation
Recorded using room microphones and line mix.
Edited and Mastered at the audiOh! Room, London.
Photography captured by Janek in Porto and Havana.
Cover design by M. Behrens with J. Schaefer
Many thanks to everyone at the Serralves Foundation and Sirr.ecords.
Dedicated to Dr. Mary Malecka
[p] sirr.ecords 2002 www.sirr-ecords.com
[c] Janek Schaefer 2002 www.audiOh.com

 

Reviews

 

Geometric Bulletin
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A remarkable example that researches the relation between sound and architecture

Jorge Castro, (Puerto Rico)
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Just got my copy this past week. My god, this album rocks! Every new record I hear from you I like even more!
Very inspiring.

VITAL list, (Staalplaat) [TJ Norris]
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The latest on Portugese label, Sirr.ecords is Janek's Schaefer's phonographic swan song. This live recording begs to be played in the dark with its dramatic edges, dips and sparse dusty corners. If you threw this disc into the ocean it would most definitely float to the surface of the currents. It floats with an eerie determination. Experiments with piano and other foreign sound samples, there seems to be a wealth of gadgetry tossed about subtly herein. At times a ghostly heirloom soundtrack to faded familial memories, contorted by time, driven by the urgency of discovery to dig past the surface. There is perhaps a parade that's gone by, in its wake having left a chronicle of its pomp and circumstance. We are only allowed to experience through another's memory. This recording could easily be illustrated by the visual works of Christian Boltanski, in its quiet moments only the echoes of structure have been faintly illuminated. The mysterious and effective black and white cover design was created by M. Behrens depicting imagery [photographed by Janek] from the performance site [and Cuba] with a digitized background. Schaefer builds a narrative for a world gone mad by salvaging its bare remnants.

 

Stylus Magazine, (UK) [Ed Howard]
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Subtly shifting colors over extended sequences, caked in a glacial freeze that thaws with hard cracks and pops within the ice floes, turntablist Janek Schaefer's latest album Black Immure is a work that requires intense concentration to appreciate its many intricate pleasures. The album is a live recording of a piece composed specifically for the old mansion in which it was performed, and the Portuguese casa's reverb-laden atmosphere surrounds this music like a dampening fog, enclosing on all sides. The music inspires claustrophobia, inviting images of darkened corridors and nighttime gardens draped with moonlit mist. There is a skewed Romanticism to Schaefer's drones and hiss, a nostalgia that seems embedded into the persona of the vinyl deconstructionist despite the modern methods of Schaefer and his many kindred souls.

This Romantic spirit is the beating heart and driving force behind Black Immure, an hour-long continuous work divided almost arbitrarily into 12 movements for the CD release. Schaefer's primary tool is, as ever, his custom-designed turntable, here playing records he found in a Portuguese shop before the concert. But this prerecorded musical element rarely ever enters too prominently into the proceedings. Even more so than his closest counterpart, Philip Jeck, Schaefer is unconcerned with the actual music encoded onto the vinyl he collects. These records are sound sources for him, raw materials to be tweaked and manipulated until they conform to the essential function of the piece at hand. For Black Immure, Schaefer has crafted a subtle, dense sea of sound, with staticky waves churning over distant classical strings or charmingly upbeat melodies.

The turntablist also incorporates field recordings he made of the old casaÆs piano, which add an eerie sense of place and time to the proceedings. The sixth track, which features SchaeferÆs plaintive, minimalist piano reverberating beneath a pristine surface of drones and distant rhythmic clattering, is one of the best here, achieving a delicacy and emotional resonance not heard quite as effectively on the rest of the album. Which is not to say that the rest isnÆt excellent, too. The first five tracks build logically towards this halfway mark, ebbing and flowing from calm stasis to chaotic outbursts and back again with a deceptive ease. After the sixth trackÆs moment of transcendence, the music slowly winds back into itself, swallowing choirs and pianos whole into the near-silence of a primeval heartbeat or the slow lapping of a wave upon the shoreline. SchaeferÆs quietude never works against him; despite being a live performance, this all seems very planned, very natural in its subtle transitions and shifts in mood. The tonal transformations are always striking and surprising, and always timed perfectly so that the pieceÆs overall moody consistency doesnÆt become overbearing.

As the music gently wends its way onward, it alternately evokes the dread of night, the playfulness of children and the feeling of walking down an ancient street in old historic Europe. Schaefer's meditative vinyl patchwork is as full of variety and life as these snapshot impressions would seem to indicate, stretching far beyond the specific locale where it was recorded. ThatÆs why the evolving tapestry of sound emanating from SchaeferÆs turntables evokes this kind of connection even without its original context of the darkened space where it was recorded. The disc closes with the sound of applause -- apparently, recorded while Schaefer had already fled the building, allowing the music to fade away of its own accord. It's an appropriate symbolic close to the preceding hour, music and creator both departing together like ghosts into the night.

 

All Music Guide, [François Couture]
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Equal parts sound installation, conceptual composition and live performance, 'Black Immure' was presented at the Casa de Serralves in Porto, Portugal on June 29, 2002. A luxurious location in all aspects, the Casa is said to have a fantastic natural reverb and sits among the landscaped gardens of the Museu de Arte Contemporanea Serralves. Janek Schaefer decided to use both of these elements for a site-specific piece. Prior to the performance he has recorded various sounds in the building, including a few melodies on the Steinway piano. During the performance he mixed those with electronics and records he found in a Portuguese thrift shop. The title comes from the fact that he also shut blinds and windows as the music progressed, trapping the audience into darkness. As the music evaporated on its own, he ran into the gardens, leaving the applause providing the coda for the work. The music remains very ambient throughout the hour of its duration, oscillating between orchestrated field recordings and atmospheric vinyl treatments. Some passages are a bit awkward, especially when Schaefer introduces vinyl quotes in a more direct manner -- they interrupt the mood. Otherwise, he put the natural reverb to good use. He seems to approach the location with the utmost respect, which translates into music of an almost ceremonial nature, calm and immersive. Very different from his shorter, composed pieces, this improvisation is somewhat gentler on the listener, even though it requires a longer attention span.

 

Urban Mag, (Belgium) [Peter Wullen]
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For his new live album the British experimental sound architect Janek Schaefer takes us along to the splendid location of the Casa de Serralves in the Portuguese city of Porto. The Casa lies in the middle of the gardens of the Museu de Arte Contemporana Serralves and possesses some superb natural acoustics. Schaefer was invited to these splendid surroundings in June 2002 to prepare a performance for a select public. The unique concert has been kept for posterity on this recording of the small Portuguese label Sirr. On the O^Black ImmureO ('immure' meaning as much as palisade) album, which is divided into 12 different phases, Schaefer not only works his ubiquitous Triphonic Turntable but he also uses the circumstances and the architecture of the Casa in every possible sense for an extraordinary electroacoustic performance. Before the concert he manipulated some especially chosen Portuguese vinyl. He also made some ghostly prerecordings of the Steinway piano, which he found in the income hall of the Casa. During the performance he 'played ' litterally and figuratively with the building by slowly closing the enormous rolling shutters and the windows and this way wrapping the public up in total darkness. At the end of the performance he threw the terrace doors open wide again to let in the light of the starlit night. At the same time a photosensitive installation conjured a magical shadow and light patchwork on the walls and the frescos of the building. At the end of the performance Schaefer finally left the villa and the public behind when he ran into the Portuguese moonlit garden. As an unsuspecting listener, who did not have the luck to be present on that magical night, O^Black ImmureO leads you from one surprise to another. From the start you are sucked in by the hollow piano sounds and the sultry sound manipulations. The performance comes to its peak during the sixth phase with that lonely and distant piano motif where Schaefer partially succeeds in transmitting the magic of the happening to the grooves of a small silicon disc. But we assume nevertheless that you had to be present during that hot Portuguese night to understand the full impact of his mix of architecture, natural acoustics and turntable manipulations. Conceptually, this is Janek's most successful album so far.


Fear Drop, (France) [Denis Boyer]
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De plus en plus attir? par les field recordings et les liens entre Architecture et son, Janek Schaefer multiplie les exp?riences de topographie sonore. Arm? de ses outils mais surtout de son imagination et de sa po?sie, il documente et transcende les ?manations acoustiques de lieux. Pour ce disque, il a pass? trois jours ?O Porto, pr?s du mus?e dOArt Contemporain. Les jardins environnants et les diff?rentes formes de vie qui sOy expriment ont certainement offert une mati?re premi?re foisonnante. Car cOest comme dans chacune de ses I?Nuvres compos?es un v?ritable micromonde qui se d?voile, tiss? avec subtilit? et m?lang? dOactions sur vinyles comme il en a lOhabitude, notamment gr?nce aux platines quOil a cr??es. Black immure est construit sur douze pi?ces, plus fragilement ?piques que d?monstratrices des techniques de Schaefer. Les vents y sont nombreux, colportant des brumes m?lancoliques qui laissent entrevoir des mouvements m?talliques et des boucles estropi?es, lumineuses et garantes dOouvertures sur des fragments de m?lodies. DOautres boucles, ?vanescentes, cr?ent parfois le rythme, comme des grillons dans un tableau estival. Dans cet univers o? lOesth?tique industrielle est encore forte, le d?passement des codes est ?vident car ce qui est bien plus quOun reportage, ou lOaccumulation de reportages, est aussi un travail profond?ment pastoral, comme un pas vers une nouvelle ?mancipation des bruits gris : leur ?veil aux saisons.


The Wire, (UK) [Philip Sherburne]
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One of a new generation of experimental turntablists, Janek Schaefer came to prominence for his custom-built, tri-phonic turntable, which he routes through various effects in performances that summon a druggy, slo-mo Plunderphonic haze out of sad scraps of discarded vinyl. Black Immure(Music from the Casa de Serralves in Twelve Phases) documents a recent performance at Porto, Portugals Museu de Arte Contemporanea Serralves. Very much a site-specific piece, Schaefer prepared for the performance with three days of field recording on the grounds of the museum and the modernist Casa de Serralves, playing the sites Steinway grand piano, and editing these raw recordings. Equipped with this material and an armload of locally purchased vinyl, Schaefer performed the improvised piece within the Casa, shuttering the interior of the space in mid-performance to take the audience from light to darkness. While the spatial aspect is lost in the audio recording (aside from occasional rumblings and rattlings that may or may not be sourced by the shutter mechanisms), Black Immure certainly doesnt lack any sense of architectural scale. Yawning chasms of echo and massive sheets of almost impenetrable drone actually evoke a space far older, and grander, than any Modernist construction, instead summoning images of fortresses, barren plains, interminable corridors, and bottomless pits. Slow, molten string passages flow over jagged percussion figures. Reverb-laden piano chords float out of the ether like echoes of a parlor from a century ago. Tungsten-bright high tones worm out of the corners of the room, like a tea-kettle keyed to the buildings resonant frequency. Everything slowly churns, as though the building were sloughing off years of lived history at a glaciers pace, shedding everything -- meals, conversations, births and deaths and restless nights in a final process of dissolution. Composed seemingly on the fly, no sense of structure orders the piece. Instead, slowly winding passages of strings and creaking percussion blur together, creating the impression of a vast maze within which one has become utterly lost.


Beat People webzine, (Spain) [Jose Manuel Cisneros]
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La electroacoestica vuelve a ser la receta utilizaba por Janek Schaefer en sus producciones. En esta ocasi?\n el escenario elegido para la toma de sonidos ha sido la portuguesa Casa de Serralves, pr?\xima a Oporto. El inefable productor pas?\ tres d?fas captando con micr?\fonos de ambiente los m?oNs diversos sonidos (incluso de "portazos" o del propio viento) de este edificio vanguardista y el resultado se muestra todav?fa m?oNs experimental que en su anterior y todav?fa muy pr?\ximo trabajo "Pulled Under" (tan cercano que tan s?\lo hace unos d?fas pudisteis verlo comentado en estas l?fneas). La principal peculiaridad reside en el acompa?|amiento que en muchas de las piezas realiza el propio Janek vali?ndose de su piano Steinway, logrando as?f dotar al minutaje de una particular e inquietante impronta. Merece la pena escucharlo. Autor.


Ultra E-zine, (Belgium)
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Ahh, ghosts of villa's past... Mr. Schaefer was invited to Portugal and spent three days collecting, manipulating and editing sounds found in and around the Casa de Serralves and the Museu de Arte Contemporaneo Serralves in Porto. He then gave an improvised concert in the Casa (it's located in the museum's gardens and has a fine natural reverb, alledgedly) by combining those sounds with the notes of a Steinway piano and the sounds of locally purchased vinyl. (You may remember Mr. Schaefer from his triphonic turntable - expect photographs of one his performances with it at the first Fat Cat label night somewhere around 1999 in Hasselt (Belgium) online on our site soon.) Now there's the cd of the concert, on the Portuguese Sirr label. It's beautifully packaged, with a cover that uses black & white photographs by Mr. Schaefer. Since the concert took place before an audience enveloped in darkness, this cd 'ought' to be played in the dark as well... Whatever the lighting, the performance is fine, though not immensely compelling either. It builds up slowly but is eventful enough to stir the imagination, e.g. phases 5 and 9+10 are more than just souvenir recordings. Even so, this cd is more 'for collectors only', e.g. for afficionados of the museum or of Mr. Schaefer's work.


Touching Extremes, (Italy) [Massimo Ricci]
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Soundtrack to a Portuguese installation by Schaefer, 'Black immure' is yet another great piece of new music by the always improving London based turntablist/composer. Though most of the sounds come - as usual - from vinyl records played by the author on modified machines, here we're treated to various grades of concrete sounds, mostly made by Janek himself while "preparing" the audience to be blinded by obscurity in the villa where the action takes place. Speaking of the overall result, the music is as always very beautiful, tending to grey-to-dark tonalities, full of looping and glissando slow motions, spiralling the listeners into trance and void. At the end, Janek can be heard running away from the scene, leaving the people 'comfortably numb' until the sound becomes silence and the final applause closes the performance. What a smart exit!


&etc webzine, (Australia)
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Schaefer's complex and intriguing works have crossed here twice before (2001_17, 2002_08) as have the Portuguese Sirr label a couple of times. This release presents a concert from the Casa de Serralves in the Museu de Arte Contemporanea Serralves combining sounds recorded in the building and grounds, a piano and locally purchased disk, captured live. The concert has been sectioned into 12 parts. In his notes, Schaefer tells us he closed the blinds around the room, immersing (immure = enclose) the audience in darkness. I think you can here this, a trundling clatter, but it also suggests the best way to listen to the piece closely and yet allowing yourself to flow with it.
There are many changes and moods to the work shifting into percussive banging crescendo; tones and noises drifting across, brief passages of music from the disks or longer times as they loop and become the focus, generally a light orchestral or folkloric tone; vinyl crackles and sounds probably from inside the piano; a movement where the piano is played; tones whistling shimmers pulse; a bouncing ball sample; rain machines breathing birds; meditative exciting excited edgy; it rises and falls, ebbs and flows.
Typical of the more intricate and closely worked pieces, very hard to describe a moment by moment run down would not capture the delicacy and entrancement. The fourth, for example: light shaker rhythms increasing with a piano loop, perhaps rain, rising and falling, buzzing machines develop over and a jolly sample; seventh fuller piano and swelling buzz, meditative, buzzing builds at times then to a light shimmer, a high squeak. Ten, maybe: long tones and whistling, moody, stage music ringing buzz; fluttering clutter, rings rumbles, tones, light orchestral develops into throbbing tone, lots of movement (opening blinds?) All that I can do is highly recommend this lovely album, which would close an evening as beautifully as it has this issue.


Absurd, (Greece)
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Black Immure is janek schaefer's cd on the portugese sirr records. A cd in 12 parts that was recorded in an houra^s conert at the casa de serralves, where janek spent a few days before the concert recording various sounds inside the building or surrounding ones plus tracked down some records of portugese music to use and here we experience a documentation of the live set that occurred on june 29, 2002 (almost a year ago) that definitely should be credited as another fantastic entry in his discography so far. I don't know but janek has the ability to create some really magnificent soundscapes that capture you since the first 'drone' heard of them in an oneiric journey, such as this one.


Aquarius Records (USA)
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Before his commissioned performance at the Casa de Serralves in Porto, Portugal in 2002, Janek Schaefer spent several days accruing sounds from the surrounding areas. While collecting his usual armload of antiquated vinyl for his avant turntablist collages, Schaefer also made recordings of a Steinway piano as well as a series of gestural actions that made use of the building's natural reverb. The manipulation of that natural reverb -- both in the electronic manipulation of the pre-recorded sounds and in physical actions made during the performance -- were the crux of Shaefer's performance. The electronic aspect of "Black Immure" follows a similar path as his last couple of records "Pulled Under" and "Le Petit Theatre De Mercelis," with divergent currents of mysterious sounds abstracted into innumerably bleak surfaces. Schaefer punctuates his atmospheres with looped samples from those old records and the piano recordings, using a technique similar to Philip Jeck's, crafting those sonatas into oblique fragments of memory that have been faded beyond all recognition. Within these portions of the performance, the natural reverb of the space does blur the edges of each sound ; however, when Schaefer creates dense metallic clattering from slamming all of the windows shut in the space and dragging chains throughout the space, the reverb takes on an Industrial din. Altogether, "Black Immure" is an impressive piece of work.