AMN Reviews: Yann Novak – Blue.Hour (Farmacia901); Paradise & Winchester (Unfathomless); Richard Chartier & Yann Novak – Undefined (Farmacia901)

Sometimes sociologists speak of “quasi-objects”, objects that are neither entirely natural nor entirely social, but rather serve as “operators” that draw people together in specific relationships as well as into relationships with non-human objects. Which sort of turns them into subjects, too. This is exactly what Yann Novak´s works are. As installation pieces, they are agents that exist to be related to – in situ in the gallery, surrounded by other visitors, with whom you might share the experience, or at home, in the form of a record, for a more private encounter.

At the beginning of 2012, Yann Novak deactivated his label Dragon´s Eye Recordings to concentrate on installation work. Rather than stem the flow of new records, Novak´s release schedule has been more crowded than ever, but now on a variety of different imprints. Of the three recent albums here, “Blue.Hour” is the most inventively designed, though all three are handsomely packaged. “Blue.Hour” is a twenty-one minute piece, housed in a soft, opaque plastic case with a short, horizontal line affixed to the front, on a clear plastic CD with a blue dot in the middle, on which the music is stored. In other words, it is a mini-CD hidden in the plain sight of a five-inch disc. His intent is to capture the twilight, that liminal moment which is not quite daylight, not yet darkness. Novak captures this attractive indirectness with a soft aerosol spray, the tiniest particles dancing their way beyond the curve of the earth. Its background is the gentle swell and recession of the sky.

Similarly aerated and atomized, “Paradise & Winchester” portrays another margin, a stretch of the Las Vegas Strip that technically lies outside the city limits and is the only spot on the map designated as a scenic route – but only at night. Novak made ten field recordings over three days attempting to capture quiet moments in the loudest place on earth. Raw and treated material are fused together blurring the boundary between real and imaginary. The voices of passersby and shoe leather scuffing sidewalks echo somewhere off in a narcotic haze and the oil-stain rainbow drone squirms and lifts off the pavement with a kind of slow ecstasy. A unique and not at all quite as alienated a portrayal of the town as one might expect.

Novak has released numerous collaborations, but “Undefined” is his first with kindred spirit Richard Chartier. Rather than focus on specific times or places, the duo concentrate of the act of listening itself, with Chartier sending Novak an unfinished piece for him to “finish” as he liked. The results were returned to Chartier for approval or rejection. Dedicated to “the uncertainties of Los Angeles”, Novak´s home of several years now, it appears to comprise three movements, sounding like someone deeply weighing his options. It long maintains a minimal but brassy, metallic ring that hints at impenetrability, an inability to warmly embrace the place, until a decidedly softer but brighter tone begins to melt down resistance and a decision, however apprehensively, is made. A coda – humming hydroelectric transmitters or singing crickets – hints at the promise of a comfy bed with cool sheets on a warm but not necessarily restful night.

Stephen Fruitman