Joel Stern

Wormwood

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    5
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AllMusic Review by

The albums released by the label Ground Fault are rarely talkative when it comes to liner notes, but Wormwood is downright deprived of any information as to the what, where, when, or how relevant to what is offered to the ears. The what and how would have been particularly helpful, and in their absence, the listener is left to his or her own hypotheses. The five pieces have been left untitled. Joel Stern must be processing computer sound files. Michael Northam (aka MNortham) uses his setup of homemade knickknacks and amplified small objects: pebbles, grains of rice, pieces of styrofoam, and various similar sounding devices used in conjunction with bowls, surfaces, and microphones. His approach is reminiscent of Xavier Charles' vibrating surfaces (infrasounds making speaker cones filled with various small objects vibrate) or the French duo Kristoff K. Roll's "electroacoustic devices." In fact, Wormwood brings to mind Charles and Kristoff K. Roll's live collaboration with Martin Tétreault and Diane Labrosse at FIMAV 2003, released by Victo as Tout le Monde en Place Pour un Set Américain. Stern and Northam's music doesn't reach that level of multi-layered richness, but it draws on the same kind of fascination for the noise, the trivial, and the triviality in noise. But Entrelacs, Northam's duo with Yannick Dauby, is more successful at that. Made of clicking sounds, vibrating subbass frequencies, high-pitched drones, and overamplified tiny sounds, Wormwood has its strong moments, especially in the second and fifth track; but the sound palette is not renewed from one piece to the next and the music runs out of idea too long before the CD stops spinning.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
9:00
2
6:31
3
14:18
4
10:53
5
11:13
blue highlight denotes track pick