The promotional material accompanying this new 27-minute work, improbably titled “Side A/B,” describes partners Stuart Chalmers and Neil Campbell as “two old Yorkshire-based chaps.” It is a standard bit of British humility. Chalmers is an accomplished, well-known found-sound artist, while Campbell has earned international accolades as a post-punk innovator and prolific artist in the years since.
Their penchant for understatement does not carry over into the music itself. This noisy, at times abrasive work features Chalmers on tape, swarmandal (an Indian harp or zither), drum synthesizer and FX pedals. Campbell contributes guitar, percussion, violin, toy piano, electronics and voice.
There’s a lot squeezed into these 27 minutes. They buzz, clank and beep relentlessly. It’s not so much a test of the emergency broadcasting system as it is a check on the patience of your cohabitants.
Score 10 points for each uninterrupted listen you get through with company (no headphones please) and report back.
As musique concrète pieces go, this one maintains a higher degree of musicality than most. But there is something about the artists’ reliance on hard surfaces struck forcefully that makes “Side A/B” an unforgettable contribution to the genre.