Kenneth Atchley


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With the right electronic tools and amount of ingenuity, you can turn the safest artifact into potential noise mayhem. Kenneth Atchley has reinvented the water fountain. Capturing the sound of water in perpetual motion, he enhances sonic details to the point of oversaturation. In his liner notes he explains: "This is sound not of waves, nor ripples on the surface; but on top of that: the foam, the embellishment." Indeed, what listeners hear is not the usual watery sounds used in electro-acoustic music. The fountain makes its own music, a shroud of millions of water particles hitting the surface, tiny individual sounds forming something not quite equal to the sum of its parts. Atchley uses all kinds of containers, pumps, and recording devices -- from field recording-type miking to contact microphones -- to capture the vibration of the "tub." Fountains presents three pieces of 20 minutes each. The artist doesn't merely illustrate his instruments, he builds dense noise pieces, heavy in intensity. They often lack subtlety in form, shifting abruptly from one setting to another (typical to harsh noise artists -- think of Merzbow or Bastard Noise playing in water), but this technique constantly destabilizes the listener, who has to refocus his or her listening. Some of the textures he achieves are simply amazing and, just to make sure listeners don't forget how they were obtained, he lets water speak for itself in numerous places. Harsh, strangely poetic, and one of a kind.