Furt Dead or Alive Review

Album. Released 1 November 2004.  

BBC Review

Barrett and Obermayer sustain an intense atmosphere of busy resourcefulness, filling...

Martin Longley 2003

Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer balance themselves between the two disciplines of electroacoustic composition and free improvisation. Their attitude towards sampling is 'hands-on', even though their music could easily be the result of pre-meditation. This album consists of just two extended pieces.

"Mice" nearly touches forty minutes, and was crafted in the electronic music studios of Durham University in June 2004. An immediate chatter begins, and it never really shuts up. Furt admire density. Their samplers behave like busy hives, communally sucking in, chewing, swallowing, then regurgitating in a persistent shower of sound. Much of the matter is generated by old-fashioned acoustic instruments, granulated into a fresh existence.

Wood, metal, plastic. These might be the materials. Or not. Scrunch, bleep, scuttle, mash, whoosh, scrape. There is a good deal of spatial swooping and scooting. Furt's fast attack is maintained throughout, dynamic in the extreme. They are terminally hyperactive. Toy voices are wrenched out, but some of these lend an unwelcome academic feel, possibly sourced from suspect tutored tonsils. Many of the sounds are string-generated: a babble of bowed, flicked and plucked nylon or steel. A repetitive thrum develops, with splurges of laser stuttergun. A series of silent pauses heighten the tension.

"Sad Fantasy" is shorter. Just under thirty-two minutes. It was recorded live at London's Conway Hall, during the 2002 Freedom Of The City festival of improvised music. Perhaps because of real-time pressure, Its sonic range seems more limited. Much of the initial source material springs from the innards of a piano, possibly recorded earlier in the day, and almost certainly self-generated. These makings are stretched, warped and looped, although remaining mostly recognisable. As the piece develops, its rate is even faster than that of the studio work, the duo doubtless ruffled up by the presence of an audience. What sounds like some kind of reed instrument is slowed down and sped up to extremes, then a garbled voice is matched with pervasive crackling. A complex rhythmic pattern develops towards the climax, looped and repeated into unpredictable structures.

Barrett and Obermayer sustain an intense atmosphere of busy resourcefulness, filling their long developments with an impressively contrasting range of sound. Their experimentation never loses its vital lust for visceral thrills. Furt's only fear is the silence, used so sparingly on this disc.

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