The Touchables | The Noise Is Rest
The term heavy in music has been picked up and appropriated by some rockers back in the late Sixties and has stuck with guitar-laden music until this day. By its definition, you are to succumb to the brunt of the charging loud sounds as enjoyment. Yet another term, cerebral, has been designated and delegated to music that you are supposedly only to think about, giving it only one plane of enjoyment.
But then, what if the heavy and cerebral are to be designated to music that you are supposed to both think about and enjoy its ‘heaviness’ of sound, yet of completely another variety. That is the impression I get from the Norwegian string duo The Touchables. Ole-Henrik Moe and Guro Skumsnes Moe seem to be after this duality on their album with a title to think about too – The Noise Is Rest.
As they say, in their album’s manifesto: “To all fellow music-makers: Play the tone E for the environment: To show that we really do care, play this tone, any octave, any length, but preferably as a long drone, that could be faded in, to be played strongly, and of considerably length. This tone could start spontaneously, it could start in the middle of a song, or symphony, or it could be played separately. That’s up to you! But play it! Make the audience sing along! Show the world that we care!!!! Now!!!!!!!!”
So what is going on here? The two Moes use two string instruments that establish completely different tonal registers – an octobass and a picoletto violin, as to create both low and high frequencies to be able to make feel (both themselves and listeners) the limits of pitch and tonality.
Sounds complicated and possibly a bit too cerebral, and if The Touchables have limited themselves to just a pure experiment, they would have ended up with an unlistenable mesh of sounds. Luckily, for all those listeners that want to think and feel at the same time, the duo have hit the right tonal frequencies here, to make you do both.
Yes, it is both music that is heavy in another sense of that word and cerebral at the same time. They obviously have an abundant musical knowledge and experience to make this sound experiment work. After all, they have studied and worked with the likes of Iannis Xenakis, Arditti Quartet, on the classical music spectrum, electronic pioneer Todd Terje and (heavy) rockers Motorpsycho, as well as composed for films and French puppet theatre Plexus Solaire and vocal ensemble Oslo 14.
And no matter how improbable it might seem, it is all heard (and felt) on The Noise Is Rest, turning something that is supposed to be noise itself into real music that you can feel and think about at the same time.