Joe Colley – Disasters of Self

Tue, 25 January 2011
Originally appeared on Resident Advisor

Joe Colley
Disasters of Self

Agitated industrial friction slowly disperses. Somewhere amidst this parsed out recording you sense deconstruction in the delicate play of static. Perhaps it’s a field recording of rain? Joe Colley, a name synonymous with sound work often coalescing within its worldly, physical structures brings out the deeper reflection in “Mirror at the End of the Road” from the three LP box set Disasters of Self.

Things don’t sit still for long. Blasts of percussive clanging rattle in the background, as if someone is rummaging for something in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. What just happened? There’s a discourse of struggle, perhaps akin to a midlife crisis to stare at blankly. All along, a digital warble pairs with bloated bearings, a whirring battle that shakes and skips, striating the vignetted chaos into flyby rhythmic pattering. Finally things end with a note, a one-string twang that echoes in a whispery drone. In the dead of silence, one is left in the bare, open space of contemplation.

Having seen Colley perform while sitting on the floor in a vast room, this set has a very similar live/performative feel to it. His intimate process with old school equipment, handheld random objects and a few random effects boxes is obvious. We are witnesses in the cadence of the crispy sound of electricity. Something sinister looms, but it conjures up more curiosity than evil spirits. A buzz leads to feedback, and gentle mashing sounds with a layer of radio interference. Between parts two and three ,it’s hard to tell if something is being ruptured, cranked out or in the process of being soldered or repaired. It’s a bit of a brazen blur.

The foreground vanishes on “One Second or Some Seconds of Light” as the background bleeds closer. Perceptually you may be listening to something moving forward in space, some type of mechanism, just churning away. But we are kept at a somewhat safe distance. The blur of a low decibel drone just lingers and pulsates. The throttle and hiss of “Wild Hope,” with just the hint of a man’s laughter and something akin to a mixing machine, help to speak its name. Until the familiar sound of a cutting buzzer (on side 4) is blended with its surface, most of Colley’s instruments here are quite anonymous.

Throughout Disasters of Self there are calmer, subtle moments between improv, and the balance is, at times, startling. The silence is unnerving amid all the raucous. But, again, it rarely lasts. The final thing you hear on this album is a whiney slice of celebration, a foreboding collision of razor-like tools scraping hard surfaces paired with the fallout from streaming fireworks.

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