Presence originated as a sound performance at an event curated by VOLUME at the Torrance Art Museum (June 2010). The original sound performance used a mixture of recordings taken with a cell phone of sounds that altered ones perception. These recordings were then digitally enhanced their unique characteristics.
During the original performance, multiple artists also performed and interacted with the space. Their unexpected interventions influenced the outcome and this unexpected interaction has become central to the pieces’ development.
Presence explores the trajectory from uneasy to breakthrough that can happen when unknown variables are combined. Through the use of digitally enhanced recordings, all chosen for their ability to altered ones perception, Presence moves smoothly through the a number of emotional and physical states. Evenly paced passages drift slowly from one into another, beginning in dissonance and slowly shifting into complimentary over the duration of the piece.
Original photo by Robert Crouch.
Photo alteration & design by Yann Novak.
Best of 2011 Lists: Headphone Commute, France Jobin, Marc Manning, Scrapyard’s Forecast, Spiritual Archives, David Velez
Novak is an LA based sound artist. This album is a long frigid isolationist drone piece formed from manipulated recordings made on a ‘cell phone’ of ‘sounds that altered one’s perception’. I’m not hugely certain what that means as I’m mostly of the opinion that all sounds alter perception in one way or another but we’ll run with it. The music itself is a longform crystalline tonal piece with a distinctly aspirated character. It’s movements are slight and precise and so cold it feels as though it would take your skin off if you were to touch it. This is music that keeps you at arms length and its icy mien is a nice change from the more common warmer tonalities but the flip side means that it does come across as a little aloof but don’t let that stop you from staring into it’s crystalline gaze.
– Wonderful Wooden Reasons
The recordings made for Presence were originally conceived by Yann Novak for a sound performance held at VOLUME, a curated event at the Torrance Art Museum in June 2010. The sound captures were made on that occasion using a cell phone. The same sounds were then digitally processed, significantly altering their specific characteristics and physical properties. That interaction then enacted a precise procedure that became indispensable in the development of the compositions, which are kept extremely rarefied, sidereal and emotional. In the highly mutoid states of sound perception during that performance many artists interacted in the space at their disposal, an environment where the same sequences were activated, evoking fascinating ambient passages, very precise iterations and hypnotically insistent caesuras. A quiet whirl of vibrations, drones, and stubborn, sensitive dissonances were generated. State-of-the-art laptop music, audio-manipulations resulting from a very direct and no-frills approach is here created by an expert of low definition sound captures – an artist more interested in the particular nature of encounters, people and the environment. The subsequent forms of intervention express a “particular quality”, resulting from the occasion and the action taken, permeated by narrative of connotations intimately infused in the post-production process. “My work is an exploration of incidents, processes and narrations”, as the author defines his union of data and impulses through various types of media.
– Neural Magazine
Yann Novak has always struck as not so much a musician or producer as a kind of digital art-documentarist who happens to deal in audio as well as visual forms, the conceptual art peg on which he invariably hangs his hat conspicuous as signifier—ghost in the machine of what is simply computer-mediated audio data manipulated to effect a response in the listener (now that’s what I call ‘music’!). Presence, the CD, is a version of a larger Presence, a performance piece including video and participatory elements: mobile phone tones, digitally-enhanced, are induced to “travel smoothly through a number of emotional and physical states.” Phony or fascinating—your mileage may vary according to your taste for the ambitions (vs. pretentions) of art experiment; e.g. if the centrality of the role of multiple chance interactions with the performance space in the piece’s development sets your pulses racing, you get cerebral value added. The lineage here is one of long-form acoustico-spatial research, and the aleatory trajectory created by indeterminate elements, most celebrated exhibit being LaMonte Young’s Dream House. Novak mines this vein in a style familiar from previous work on his Dragon’s Eye label, roughly between the low-end drone strategies of Thomas Köner and the high-end microsonics of Richard Chartier.
The captured phone tones, their over- and under- teased out by tweakery, are slowly shifted through various nuanced passages into a 48-minute tract, Presence first manifesting in its binary opposite—absence, evacuated space across which a few stray vapours float unmoored from recognizable pitch. These dry wisps condense into thicker moister draughts, wafting through the liminal into a long smudge of tone colour. A univocal drone develops amid which different accents and inflections emerge—crepitant, sibilant, fibrillating, tintinnabulating. A nocturnal hum takes you down—eddies of shimmer, soft rumble, and organ-like undercurrents in the toneflow. Presence operates in the inbetween between unresolved and resolution, flirting with the chill charms of the unpitched then back, finding refuge in more comfily pitched material. Low-end looms cede to sudden subsides, then other kinds of radiation, drawing back from the edge of abrasion, softening in focus to warm fuzzy then ceding again to cold prickly revisits. Forever midway through a state of change, one might say that no tone is left unturned as Novak documents the sound of elemental changes—from air to water, fire to earth.
So, ending somewhere between the Scylla and Charybdis of reductionism and transcendence, we might observe the challenge here is not so much posed by experimental obscurantism, but by deep listening—to tune in to a teeming microcosmos (1996) and discern deeper sound distinctions within. One can feel secure, though, with Yann Novak—that the austerities of process are felicitously balanced by the pleasures of listening product, however hard won. Something of a departure from Hibernate’s usual organic ambient-drone fare, Presence proves to be a satisfying realization of transformative processing, of mute hummings afforded articulate speech, as illustrated in the excerpt below from a recent free Hibernate sampler.
– Igloo Magazine
Ad un anno di distanza da “Relocation.Reconstruction “, Yann Novak torna a pubblicare un nuovo lavoro solista, questa volta per i tipi di Hibernate. Se in altre occasioni I’artista californiano ci aveva abituati ad uscite profondamente legate all’aspetto performativo o installativo della sua ricerca, come delle estensioni proteiformi di lavori nati in contesti altri rispetto a quello dell’home listening, stavolta in “Presence” il focus è puntato sull’aspetto psicologico-percettivo del suono. “In tutti i miei lavori, tento di mettere in equilibrio specificità ed ambiguià al punto che il lavoro stesso guidi gli ascoltatori a fare esperienza di cid chò ho fatto” , dichiarava Novak un paio di anni fa in un’intervista pubblicata su queste pagine. E gli elementi che emergono nel corso dell’ascolto di questa unica, lunga traccia sono in effetti il risultato del tentativo di rappresentare i “luoghi” di un’esperienza intima, familiare per lo spettatore che possa intersecarsi in qualche modo con la narrazione persenale dell’autore. Dal sottile, iniziale librarsi del suono lungo lo spettro dell’impercettibile e fino al liquido propagarsi di atmosfere sature, ossessive ed immanenti, “Presence” costruisce un’esperienza in cui lo spazio uditivo dell’ascoltatore viene rappresentato come un insieme complesso di fattori in cui interagiscono efficacemente gli aspetti fisici e psicologici del suono, attraverso una serie di transizioni in pre-sentia di particolare presa suggestiva.
– Blow Up Magazine
Words printed on the cd packaging state that Presence is intended to be listened to at a relatively low volume, and much like with the case of Asher or Richard Chartier’s work, turning the volume to, I’d say just shy of medium, tends to reveal enough of the nuances while also staying true to the artist’s intentions; this of course varies from case to case. When listening to Novak’s latest at medium-low, one is gradually taken through an austere sound world as cold as Thomas Koner’s Permafrost. While Koner never really hinted at a bright side on that album, Novak provides some light here, especially in the final quarter, a dare-I-say breathtaking ebb and flow of soft white noise and translucent melody. Sublime.
– Scrapyard’s Forecast
On its inner sleeve, Yann Novak’s Presence displays what might appear to be a rather contradictory note, given the recording’s title: “This work is intended to be listened to at a relatively low volume.” Though it might seem that a title like Absence would make more sense, presence in this case has a specific meaning that’s tied to the project’s contextual origins. It began as a June, 2010 sound performance at the Torrance Art Museum and involved a mixture of perception-altering cell phone recordings that were then digitally enhanced. Presumably, the presence dimension can be accounted for by the contributions multiple artists brought to the piece during its original performance in their interactions within the gallery setting. Exactly what said interactions were or how they influenced or altered the piece isn’t clarified, though perhaps one might think of the effect as analogous to the experience one has at LaMonte Young’s Dream House where the visitor’s position within the space produces an alteration in the character of the room’s drone ambiance. No matter: as a meditative ambient work, Presence holds up perfectly well on purely sonic terms and is pretty much the kind of material one has come to expect from Novak, the LA-based sound, video, and installation artist who manages the Dragon’s Eye imprint and whose work has appeared on Line, Infrequency, and White Line Editions: a single-track, forty-eight-minute setting of low-level electrical hum that segues seamlessly from one slightly different state to another. In characteristic manner, Novak’s minimal material gently ebbs and flows as it makes its way through episodes of subdued shimmer and rumble. Layers of whistling, simmering, and organ-like tones intermingle within the ever-drifting mass, and the listener gradually begins to hear the work as something that could pass for amplified sleep exhalations subtly elaborated upon by Novak.
It’s funny to note how my mind usually refuses to take in the often abstruse “explanations” that accompany a music release. This occurrence is particularly frequent in the ambient/installation soundtrack area, namely the place where Presence fits. Born as sound material for an event at the Art Museum of Torrance (California), this piece essentially consists of a single 48-minute stroke of ice and grey gradations, moving from silence to different states of vibrational and hissing entrancement. Nothing more than that, actually – but it is very beautiful to hear. The movements are scarce and extremely gradual, the shifts from a level to another barely discernible. Occasionally the lower frequencies come at the mix’s forefront, only to be pushed back by other kinds of radiation, typically facilitating an overall sense of quiet transcendence. I’m not really able to understand what Novak means with “balancing between his own personal history and that of the audience”, apparently the work’s fundamental aim. A composer and a receiver will never meet at halfway point, despite contrary appearances; too many are the variables involved in a listening experience. But sonically speaking – because this is what interests me beyond everything – this is most definitely one of his finest propositions, for which the “infinite repeat” recommendation comes natural.
– Touching Extremes
Presence started life as a sound performance at Torrance Art Museum in California back in June 2010, in which digitally enhanced cell phone recordings were combined in a manner designed to travel “smoothly through a number of emotional and physical states”. But just as with emotion itself, Presence never exists as a definable “state”; it’s a complex array of states at various degrees of intensity, forever rising and subsiding over time. Emotion and Presence exist as states of change and in the constant expectation of change, and rather than simply travelling between emotional and physical states, I perceive the piece to perform a slightly different function: it transfers the flux of emotion to physical spaces, conjuring imaginary locations eternally going through transformation.
It begins as a large empty hall, with a dissonant and vaporous chorus of drones floating across its high ceiling and gushes of wind circulating slowly in the space beneath. And then it’s underwater – rumbling with a deep, gargled pressure that rolls alongside submarine mechanism whirr – before becoming airborne, with a sense of space determined by the whispy clouds of sound round the edges but essentially untethered and ever ascending. These changes of location are never permitted to settle and fully materialise; each feels like a watery vision, conjured purely for the fleeting minutes that the listener exists within it, forever midway through a state of change. But it’s not a simple case of Novak cross-fading between them. Presence documents the sound of air thickening into water and then evaporating into mist, and bright lights fading into absence. It’s a process by which some elements are mutated while others are discreetly left to drift out of earshot, treating each as a shape-shifter to be eternally broken down and rebuilt, with transience the only constant identifier. Arguably the first half just about edges the second in terms of engagement, Presence is very transfixing in its entirety.
Yann Novak creates a quiet, meditative environment for his drones, crackles, and snaps. I’m reminded of nature, of the sound of walking through the city late at night. Often when it is snowing I walk outside with my headphones on since I’m too cheap to buy proper earmuffs. The beginning of ‘Presence’ gives me the same aural sensation, of tiny particles traveling great distances for small purposes. ‘Presence’ develops this small crackle at a slow, steady pace. Spreading out over forty-eight minutes, it takes a great deal of time to build up. At times Yann Novak recalls the best of L-NE’s near-silent masterpieces, particularly from the forty minute mark onward. From that point forward, Yann moves the sound into a comforting tone. You forget the glacially cold tones of the previous minutes and are brought into its warmth. That’s the album’s greatest virtue. Yann creates an emotional heart to these tones. ‘Presence’ creates an aural environment based off of emotional stimuli rather than a clinical study of sound. By the end you realize exactly why Yann structured the piece the way he did. It was the only way it would make sense on an emotional level. For while we often enjoy living in such loud, hectic environments, there’s something to be said for a good time by oneself, meditating over the day’s events. Listen to ‘Presence’. Think about your day. Don’t say a word. Get immersed in the wonderful comforting silence of your surroundings.
– Beach Sloth
Minimalism remains a concept that is easy to grasp but remains difficult to execute well. Presence is the audio document of a larger project that included video and participatory elements. Composed of rounds recorded on cell phones, the album is the result of the interaction of Yann and other artists during the original performance, giving rise to unanticipated results. As a single 48-minute long track, Presence is a very subtle journey along a continuum of states and emotions; all while staying consistent with the overall quiet, delicate nature of the album. These are old chestnuts of mine for a review of this kind of music rewards a careful and patient listen, but given the extremely meditative quality of Presence, they bear repeating. As quiet and subtle as the album is, I found it be a deeply engaging listen. There’s a prevailing quality across the album to listen more carefully, listen harder, differentiate the deeper layers of sound. That’s the quality that defines Presence as well executed minimalism.
– To Eleven
Electronic music is now more ubiquitous than schoolboy garage rock bands ever were. And where schoolboy garage bands once plagued their classmates into spending Saturday evenings at church halls and community centres listening to strained variations of ‘Wild Thing’; electronica can sound completely slick and professional without ever having to solve musical conundra such as drummers without transportation or gigs turning out as desultory sausagefests.
2011′s equivalent of the C-60 cassette sold at the end of the gig, is the digital download hawked on Juno, the wheedling sales pitch delivered via FaceBook and Soundcloud.
Yeah, yeah. Change the record Keenan, how many more intros do you really think you can get out of this grumpy nostalgia rant anyway?
Ok, to change tack somewhat, and get to the actual point. How do we assign value to a piece of music now? How, in the fragmented world of music in the twenty-first century, do we decide if something is good, if it is hackneyed, or if it is just plain bad? We’re probably freer now than we ever were in the history of recorded music to make our own decisions, based purely on the subjective parameters of whether we actually like the music or not.
Most of us, certainly those of us who read Trebuchet reviews, would argue that these were the only parameters we ever used anyway. Very few music lovers like to face the possibility that the music we listen to came to our ears via a sequence of events involving peer pressure, marketing, vanity, herd instinct; or the equally contrived conscious rejection of all the aforementioned.
Why exactly we should be so determined to assert our independence of mind in musical taste is difficult to establish. In visual art subjective opinion has long been the subject of mockery: ‘I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like’ (or variations thereon) is treated as the hallmark of the ignorant. Credibility is established through consensus, and endorsed by auction success. The music industry tends toward the opposite – mainstream success consigns any piece of music, regardless of artistic merit or intention, to the status of the Athena poster or the pool-playing dogs.
But often, subjective taste is all we have to go on. Yann Novak’s Presence is forty-eight minutes of droning ambience which, by parameters not entirely appropriate to music, visual art or drama, is just obviously good. There are probably a few compelling arguments as to why this is so, but they could easily be dismissed by anyone with the willingness to do so. Ambient Electronica abounds, there is more of it released in a week than could be held by the entire cd rack of a decent provincial library, and a lot of it sounds, well…. A lot of it sounds… not bad actually. Presence though, sounds better than that.
Some of it (the album is a single track, which progresses through different moods and states) could be taken for one of those time-stretched recordings of Justin Bieber that were doing the rounds some months ago. There is the same strained repetition in some of the recurring breathy pulses that could just turn out to be high-hat beats when played at their original speed. This is guesswork though, they could be programmed that way.
Novak gives little of his sound-processing methods away, instead pressing the narrative that the original field recordings came from a sound performance event in June 2010 at the Torrance Art Museum, California. How much of that matters though, is a sticky point. The album is released as a sound recording, and it is that recording which is under review, not the visuals or performances which accompany it.
That event involved taking recordings of sounds which ‘altered one’s perceptions’ using a mobile phone, the sound files later processed to form the sonic backbone of the album. It’s pretentious stuff indeed, or ‘high-concept’, depending on your levels of skepticism, cynicism or tolerance for the vocabulary of California-based artistic types. But it’s also damned fine ambient music, managing to evoke that alpha-wave deep immersion that typifies the best of the genre, without ever resorting to the crowd-pleasing antics that often ruin such offerings (everything from the ubercliche of distant thunderstorms to the more recent use of obtuse dissonant harmonics and heavy-handed stereo panning).
The sleevenotes offer the advice that the record should be listened to ‘at a relatively low volume’. Interesting. There is much subtle detail that could be lost to too quiet a reproduction, certainly the top-end flitting motifs that periodically dominate. Mid-range melodies ghost in and out regularly too, although if there is anything to be pointed at in the record as being a bit obvious, it is these organlike themes which sound very much like great chunks of Orbular Bells.
Who can say? There is doubtless much here that could be pointed at and ridiculed as derivative of Eno, The Orb, Boards of Canada et al. But the fact remains that Presence is a deeply satisfying record, with an ability to, well, alter perception. Or at the very least, evoke mental imagery. The rumbling low-end whitenoise that hums along periodically has a heft to it that feels massive, in the true scientific sense of having mass.
It also comes in a very pretty sleeve. And damn your accusations of subjective value-judgements within the realms of the visual. It’s pink. Pink is pretty.
– Trebuchet Magazine
Long form piece on Hibernate. Beautifully contructed, and with an amazing tonal arrangement.
– Futuresequence Newsletter #1
If you consider the approach this sound and video performer from Los Angeles (where he also manages his own imprint, Dragon’s Eye Recordings, whose issues show an unconventional perspective on minimal and abstract composition) chose in order to build this 48-minutes lasting sonic sculpture, as the main source of original recordings has been grabbed through a mobile phone, you could get astonished by the miracle Yann Novak made on digital processors. Originally performed at the Torrance Art Musem in June 2010, whereas other artists interacted within the sonic nebula by which the performer filled the listening space, Presence could be considered a sort of transitional drone, as the three sonic elements circling around listener’s head (a sort of electric noisy murmur, similar to the sound you hear when you place ear-drops to fight some acute form of catarrhal otitis, the nocturnal chattering from a field crowded with cicadas and crickets and a spectral breathe…all them giving the illusion of a sort of invisible presence hiding from your view) appear and disappear in different ways after bumping into filter and mixer’s channel so that you can experience a wide range of different moods, all of them being equally dramatic. The preface of this emotional journey could sound quite gloomy, but you will notice a gradual crouched approaching to more auroral and luminous sonorities till the final amniotic floating after slow changes in the states of “matter”.
– Vito Camarretta, Chain D.L.K.
En Juin 2010, Yann Novak installe son matériel au Torrance Art Museum dans le comté de Los Angeles pour une longue manipulation basée à partir de divers enregistrements de sons sur téléphone cellulaire. En résulte Presence, une longue séquence de 48 minutes qui débute de manière très abstraite et sombre pour lentement se développer sur la durée vers des territoires plus cotonneux et doux. Imaginez un périple dont le départ se situerait aux confins du système solaire où règne une quasi obscurité pour petit à petit se rapprocher de la lumière et de la chaleur du soleil. C’est l’excellent label anglais Hibernate recordings qui expatrie Yann Novak de son propre Dragon’s Eye recordings californien pour la sortie de ce disque extra-terrestre tout en subtilité et complémentarité sonore.
– Rock it to the Moon
Preface. I advice to listen to this work on loudspeakers (stereo on quadraphony or octophony works very very well)
Presence is the most recent release by Los Angeles based american artist Yann Novak on UK label Hibernate.
On the text regarding this release it says that Yann Novak used sounds captured on a cellphone, sounds that he refers to as “chosen for their ability to altered ones perception”. As a reviewer I don’t expect to know anything about the sound sources but when you read about “perception altering sounds” and the text doesn’t elaborate on that any further it makes for the text to seem no fully developed. Although as a reviewer and listener I moslty care about the sound experience that I have with the piece the text is important when it has a close relationship with the creative process as it can help articulating ideas and formal concepts.
Perception seems to work like some sort of “perceptual matter” that the sound artists work with: The effect that sound has on a perceptual level is very strong in part because of this double-hearing process where the experience becomes two. When the artist is working with sound he is working with the perception of sound and Presence is a great example of the capacity of sound to “play” with our conscience having the listener surrounded and immersed in a space and time created by sound.
This work is improvisation-based as originally worked with other performances on an event at the Torrance Art Museum in California on June of 2010. On the liner notes I found this text regarding the release: “Presence explores the trajectory from uneasy to breakthrough that can happen when unknown variables are combined…Presence moves smoothly through the a number of emotional and physical states. Evenly paced passages drift slowly from one into another, beginning in dissonance and slowly shifting into complimentary over the duration of the piece.”
As an artist myself I believe that a sound piece is like a seed that the artists sows on the listener’s conscience where it develops into an individual sensible experience. Anyway there is a subjacent connection, mostly on the improvised piece, since the performer is also listening to his performance as it occurs; This connection is the artistic, is the the individual specific concerns becoming general and universal through the sensible experience established between the artist, his perception, his method, his work and the listener’s perception.
On a review for Age of insects by Mem1 and Stephen VIitiello I mentioned that sound improvisation has this unique capacity of dealing with time because the performer is working on real time having this strong sense of the “now” that is immanent during the performance and on its documentation. The importance of the “now” in a perceptual level is very strong on Presence, the listener fields that something is happening but he is also very aware of change, of many things happening simultaneously and on a ephimereal way.
The interest of the artists about perception and the final formal result of this project are completely coherent, Presence works on a level where the physical surrounding of the listener becomes secondary as he is immersed on a perceptual time and space that has no relation with his physical notion; the artists establishes a personal notion of time and space that the listener inhabits with his imagination. Very successful work in terms of how the main thematic considerations of the artists are formally dealt with through the piece.
– John McEnroe, The Field Reporter
Written specifically for a one-off performance at the Torrance Art Museum, Presence is the latest offering from renowned sound, video and installation artist Yann Novak. Using digitally enhanced recordings made on a mobile phone, Novak explores an ever shifting soundscape between the uneasy and resolution, drifting from cold atonality to warmer, tonal territory over the course of the piece. We are greeted by glistening static and an overpowering drone, like thousands of minute electronic insects flittering through a barren wasteland. Rumbling low frequencies come and go as the insistent tone continues, acting like a cold wind blowing through this desolate landscape. The insect-like shards of sound gradually become more fragmented as the drone dies away, leading to a sparser passage. The high frequencies are greatly contrasted by the continuation of the low pitch rumble, accentuating the lack of any middle ground and unsettling the listener. Following a brief respite from the intensity of the constant tone, we are once again plunged into a static space, this time the harmony providing a slightly warmer tone. Through barely perceptible changes, the low frequencies gradually become softer without losing their intensity, and the previously abrasive texture shifts into a far more hospitable space, enveloping the listener in immersive tones. The contrast also becomes less obvious here, with more mid-frequency tones to balance out the previously opposing harmonies, adding to a sense of approaching resolve. As the warm tones slowly disperse, so we see the return of the some of the previous harsh sounds. Somehow though these have been softened, fragmented, and do not prickle the atmosphere as before. The bass rumble continues to come and go, ever present throughout the many stages of the piece, the surrounding texture changing its role from that of a cold, unforgiving wind to a reassuring accompaniment. All in all a beautiful study of the space between uneasiness and resolution, taking the listener on a seamless journey over the course of the piece. Through highly attuned gradual changes, Novak expertly shifts the soundscape from one state to the next. Recommended!
– Katie English, Fluid Radio
If you’re a fan of minimal music then you’re in the right place. If you’re not familiar with Yann Novak he runs the Dragon’s Eye label who specialise in music of the most minimal nature. I’ve not heard any of Yann’s music myself ‘til now but I wasn’t expecting a busy sounding album. And I was right! Released on the Hibernate label you get one 48 minute track where really not very much happens. Minimal electronics and drone are the order here with microscopic changes happening regularly making what I thought would be a reasonably uneasy listen actually quite enjoyable. It’s the tiny changes that make this album and it’s amazing when you find out they’re all manipulated mobile phone sounds. It’s occasionally glacial and other times it’s got an industrial vibe but generally it’s an isolating listen which won’t appeal to everyone but certainly anyone who enjoys minimal drone should check this out!
– Norman Records
On occasion, I will post a work of ambient music. I do this because I enjoy that kind of music immensely. I enjoy it because its one of the only forms of music that consistently inspires strong feelings in me. These feelings are also consistently unique to the genre, as they’re very unlike the feelings I get when I listen to, say, a jazz or folk song I love. These particular reactions have also proved to be some of the most difficult to describe through words. I cannot tell you what is critically “good” ambient or drone versus what is “bad.” I wouldn’t even know how to begin to approach such an evaluation. I can share with you that rare combination of drones and textures that stir emotions within me, but for the life of me I couldn’t possibly tell you why they do. This is the case with Yann Novak’s “Presence.” Usually my attempts to put this kind of music into words have resulted in overly verbose, extravagant imagery that I can only assume results in you, Dear Reader, rolling your eyes and sighing contemptuously. I’ll try to avoid it, but I can make no guarantees. Presence is Yann Novak’s 48 minute album, released in September earlier this year. “Presence” is the 48 minute track that comprises of the entirety of Presence. As a result of this duality, even the most lackluster, informal review of the track becomes an album review. I hesitate to call any post an “album review” unless my opinion on the subject has been fully formed through multiple listens and examinations. I won’t lie; that hasn’t happened here. That’s my disclaimer. I have listened to it once through, though, and my initial reaction is a very positive one (hence my posting it). I do think that this is one piece I will be listening to continuously throughout the rest of year. I won’t do my typical track rundown because of the sheer size of this week, but it is well worth the listen and firmly gets my seal of approval. Yann Novak is an LA artist who does a good many things, defining himself as a “sound, video, and installation artist.” Indeed, Presence seems to have been borne out of works of performance art in which sounds recorded from cell phones were digitally shaped and molded into music. The result varies and shifts throughout the piece. At times the underlying texture will imply nonsensical radio noise, creating a soft tension while at others immense, glacial drones become calming and cold. The latter moments are naturally my favorite, given my inclination towards similarly calm works, but they pay off nicely in contrast to the more edged parts. I fear I may be beginning to reach into the realm of non-senical, grandiose, abstract imagery as I typically end up doing with this kind of music. In my (light) research on Presence I was comforted by the fact that the artist himself is taken towards the conceptually abstract. Here is the official word on Presence: “Presence explores the trajectory from uneasy to breakthrough that can happen when unknown variables are combined. Through the use of digitally enhanced recordings, all chosen for there ability to altered ones perception, Presence moves smoothly through the a number of emotional and physical states. Evenly paced passages drift slowly from one into another, beginning in dissonance and slowly shifting into complimentary over the duration of the piece. “
– Middle Class White Noise
Los Angeles based sound artist and Dragon’s Eye Recording label manager Yann Novak has been working in the experimental electronic field since 2005 releasing on labels like White Line Editions, Line, Infrequency and his own label, among others.
“Presence” was recorded at an event curated by VOLUME at the Torrance Art Museum in June 2010. In this album Novak used the sound taken with a cell phone which was digitally manipulated. Also during this performance other artists play and intervene the space.
The CD consists in only one piece of 48 minutes long which unfold an ambience and minimal composition. The result is a long drone piece that draws the listener to solitary and quiet landscapes.