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INSUB Records Arrives

John Eyles By

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Since 2006, the Geneva-based Insubordinations label has issued over sixty albums dedicated to experimental, improvised, electroacoustic and composed music, all of which remain freely downloadable under creative commons license. Now the label has launched an innovative new imprint, INSUB records, with two impressive releases. Strangely, the concept of the new venture is at odds with the inclusion of the word "records." For many of us, that word still conjures up images of vinyl discs (usually twelve inches in diameter) housed in cardboard sleeves decorated with artwork and, maybe, sleeve notes—objects which still attract a great deal of emotional attachment and so are very collectable. The steady evolution from records to CD's to digital downloads has increasingly focussed on their encoded information and less on the intrinsic desirability of the objects themselves, thus eroding both the emotional attachment and collectability.

Despite its name, INSUB records releases will not be available on disc, only as downloads (FLAC, MP3 or OGG), but there is a recognition of the attraction of a physical object. The music can either be downloaded directly, for a price (there is not yet any suggestion that it may be available for free), or a card sleeve containing a folded A3 sheet of artwork and information can be purchased; the information on the A3 sheet includes a password that can be used to download the music—thus making the whole exercise feel oddly like espionage! But, however it arrives, this music is well worth the effort of acquiring it.

Hannes Lingens
Four Pieces for Quintet

Percussionist and accordionist Hannes Lingens lives and works in Berlin. To perform his composition "Four Pieces for Quintet," his accordion is joined by four of Berlin's finest—the double basses of Koen Nutters and Derek Shirley, the violin of Johnny Chang and the clarinet of Michael Thieke. Straight away, there is a benefit to the new format, as the folded A3 sheet in the card sleeve includes the graphic scores for the four pieces. They are intriguingly cryptic, each displaying five lines (one per player) consisting of blocks of different lengths and colours but no indication of what durations or tones they signify. Neither is there any indication which score corresponds to which piece.

A quote from Lingens indicates that such ambiguity is deliberate: "I like the thought that someone could find the images and, assuming a certain logic behind them, try to find out what they mean. This someone might come to a completely different result as we did in our realisation of the scores." In an interview printed on the A3 sheet, Lingens offers more information on how the quintet approached his score, but does not reveal much more than that each piece has a duration of five minutes because "there were five pieces originally, five players and five colours/tones, so I thought they should be five minutes each." Comparing the scores to the renditions, it is possible to begin to fathom out which is which and what they mean—but that is hard work and feels rather like code-breaking (more espionage!) so is not to be encouraged...

Irrespective of the scores, the twenty minutes of music makes engaging listening. In each piece, its limited palette is deployed effectively to create a range of contrasting colours, moods and effects. In his interview, Lingens acknowledges that he has been influenced by Wandelweiser, particularly name-checking Antoine Beuger and Michael Pisaro. That influence is evident in the length of time that combinations of tones are sustained so that their sounds can be savoured. Overall, the composition creates a mood of calm and tranquillity reminiscent of many Wandelweiser pieces. It is an excellent way to inaugurate a new imprint, and singles Lingens out as a composer to watch.


It is entirely fitting that a Diatribes recording is one of the first releases on INSUB records, as the duo's members, Cyril Bondi and D'incise (a.k.a. Laurent Peter), are the curators of INSUB and—individually and collectively—have also been prolific contributors to Insubordinations since 2006. However, although Diatribes have collaborated with many artists on Insubordinations recordings, Augustus is the first release by the duo alone. On the album's one thirty-eight minute track, "Augustus," the combination of Bondi's floor tom and objects with D'incise's laptop and electronics creates the kind of detailed soundscape that has supported and accompanied others before. Here, the significant difference is that the two of them are only concerned with their own playing, no-one else's, and can react to each other without distraction.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of the piece is the extent to which the two understand each other, the result of playing together since 2004. The resulting music lies somewhere on the spectrum between electroacoustic improvisation and drone, having more structure and repetition than is commonly heard in the former but too much variety and surface detail for the latter. The piece evolves slowly, with sounds seeming to be repeated and prolonged so they can be savoured both by the players and the listener, but it does evolve and change as new sounds enter the field. Particularly noteworthy and effective are the booming low frequencies—at times reminiscent of a didgeridoo drone—which provide a well-chosen contrast and complement to higher frequency scrapings and hiss. A well-constructed piece. The future looks bright for INSUB.

Tracks and Personnel

Four Pieces for Quintet

Tracks: No.2; No. 5; No.3; No. 4.

Personnel: Koen Nutters: Double bass; Johnny Chang: Viola; Michael Thieke: Clarinet; Hannes Lingens: Accordion; Derek Shirley: Double bass.


Tracks: Augustus (38:33)

Personnel: Cyril Bondi: floor tom, objects, etc. ; D'incise: laptop, objects, etc



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