Seattle’s own Dragon’s Eye Recordings is not only that city’s best kept secret, they provide one of the better arguments in recent memory for the legitimacy of the CDR as recording format. Skinny clear jewel boxes shorn of tray card and booklet immediately bring Raster-Noton to mind, but Yann Novak’s label isn’t strictly an exercise in glitch politics as usual. In fact, Wyndel Hunt strikes me as a chap who’s yet to dump his Belgium EBM/Play It Again Sam stock. Fascillations fairly reeks of the swanky Euro bump ‘n’ grind so popular in those late 80s days pre-techno, slowed down and emasculated, but there all the same. It’s also shot through with test-card frequency phases and some good ‘ol fashioned U.S. grade-A prime noise for comfort, straight outta the RRR catalog. I’m there. Yann Novak himself could be any one of a dozen phonographers/field recordists, and, well, he is, thank you. He’s also got more ideas in his pinky than some of his colleagues have in all their DATs. Fade Dis/appearances just about defies easy categorization, if not criticism. A work such as “Julia With Flanking,” with its obtuse pulses, insectile thrush and burnished surfaces, puts to shame most sweathogs who labor intensely over the latest plug-in without finding a suitable plug to stick it in to; truth is, Mille Plateaux in its heyday would’ve killed for this (are you listening, dear Sirr?). Son Of Rose hath slayed me as well, his self-titled debut corrugated ambient/dronestuff that actually plays too coarse on the tongue to be, as goes the trad “ambient” definition, ignored. But it should be admired. “Baltic” goes from imperceptible blackness to snap, crackle ‘n’ pop so subtly, effectively and exuberantly your head’ll be days catching up. Then there’s Family Affair, the requisite label compilation, featuring all the above in addition to other comparés. This lot mandates Seattle be embossed on the proverbial map.
– e/i Magazine
These stately, gaseous compositions were originally commissioned by the Crispin Spaeth Dance Group, and they formed part of a multimedia performance that took place earlier this year in Yann Novak’s native Seattle. Stripped of there context, they remain intriguing – abstract, sure, but not without a certain incessant resonance. This is Novak’s debut album, coming in the wake of a series of 3” Cds released on his own Dragon’s Eye label, and opening a new chapter in a compositional career that has progressed from youthful experiments with turntables and loops to these structures fashioned by laptop and minidisk. The pieces which make up Fade Dis/Appearances are mostly beatless and almost weightless, and, although the opening “Cartography Floor” is sparser than most, it sets out the record’s parameters – Distant, abraded drones; hovering, tremulous tones; tiny clouds of shivering microbial detail. The fallowing “Julia With Flanking” is equally poised but even more affecting, its vaporous spread somehow encompassing a stealthy, self-effacing melody worthy of Gavin Bryers. Fade Dis/Appearances is an assured and distinctive success.
– The Wire
It’s the quiet ones you have to keep your eyes and ears on. This axiom applies to sound designer/visual artist Yann Novak, one of Seattle’s foremost microsound producers.
Novak has just released his debut album, Fade Dis/Appearances. A commissioned score to a Crispin Spaeth Dance Group performance, Fade vividly animates infinitesimal electronic and organic sound granules. You’ll wonder how dancers moved to these microbial soundscapes, save for “OCD Variations”‘s intricate drum ‘n’ bass rhythms amid hospital-equipment ambience.
Before he began applying Mies van der Rohe’s minimalist principles to audio production, Novak raved and DJed trance/breaks in his Madison, Wisconsin hometown. After a brief, disastrous time in Phoenix in 1997, he returned to Madison to get his mind together after a dalliance with drugs. Shortly thereafter, Novak had several epiphanies and started making his own music.
“Life was pretty rough then,” Novak recalls, “and I was kind of lost. Then I saw the Terre Thaemlitz video for ‘Silent Passability’ and his interview in the [film] Modulations when he talks about ambient music being about ‘tripping out,’ and how he adds disruptions to his music to snap the listener back into their environment. Right there, something clicked. I suddenly started diving into all these other more intellectual places.”
Novak views his visual and audio work as essentially complementary. “I was doing a lot of collage when I was DJing,” he says. “Then I did a series of paintings about repetition. Strangely enough, when I moved to Toshiro Kaplan Building, I stopped painting altogether to pursue music full-time. I don’t want to stop doing visual work, but I think it’s going to take a twist toward sound installation.”
Novak’s also recently released a CD of field recordings accompanying local zine Ong Ong’s inaugural issue. Besides birdsong, airplane-engine drones, and splashing water, the disc bears something that sounds like a black hole sucking matter into its maw.
“I am looking for a venue to do an installation involving the Ong Ong field recordings, but a different aspect of them. I find it interesting that whenever I listen to them, I can hardly pay attention; our brains are so accustomed to tuning those noises out. I want to make installation work that takes that idea a step further, where [one] will be forced to actively listen to even hear the work. The visual work I do in the future will be about sound in relation to space.”
A minimalist to the core, Novak asserts, “The power of simplicity has always had a great impact on me, from buying the [Plastikman’s Sheet One], to seeing Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames in high-school math class. The idea that something can have just as much impact when stripped down to its simplest gesture, as when it’s exploding with meaning—that is perfect to me, like good design.”
– The Stranger