AMN Reviews: Robert Turman – Flux (Spectrum Spools)

An unearthed treasure, time-capsuled since the summer of 1981, when American multi-instrumentalist and composer Robert Turman took a turn for the subtle. Previously, Turman had been a brother-in-noise with Boyd Rice in NON and other unforgiving industrial acts. “Flux” on the other hand is as unassuming as it gets – self-released as a limited edition cassette, Turman created six long-form minimalist “fluxes” out of kalimba, piano, a drum machine and tape loops. This being 1981, the human touch is also vividly present in the recording, one hand pushing stop and start buttons, the other on the piano. With the current preoccupation in the visual and musical arts with bodies and their interaction with technology, how rare to encounter a thirty-year-old recording that feels so very contemporary, not only in sound but execution.

Each track is substantial but pliable, friable and above all, tactile. You can hear the hands shaping the sound. The opening track – in this version, the six tracks have been shorn of the titles they originally bore – has a woody, African music-box quality. The second trickles fat, round raindrop notes. The third is reminiscent of canned Chinese music meant to evoke an Imperial court scene in some cheap Hollywood flick, and yet proceeds with grace and dignity. As it slowly revolves and its timbre is altered, the air around it grows thicker, dreamier. The last two pieces are piano studies. Lovely as they are, they feel like bonus material to the revelatory near-hour that proceeds them.

Released by Spectrum Spools, the not-quite two-year-old sublabel of Editions Mego, successor to the Mego label that is extending its legacy of creating and curating some of the most significant micromosaics in sound. Robert Turman´s “Flux” is certainly a legacy piece worth praise and preservation. Literally a sound sculptor with his hands-on approach, “Flux” is an important, groundbreaking work. And it´s just so beautiful to listen to.

Stephen Fruitman