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li_series 06: Grubs The Size Of Thumbs

by Mark Lyken



Sixth in the series is Mark Lyken's 'Grubs The Size Of Thumbs', with an accompanying text by David Fyans entitled 'Noise Floor'.

Mark Lyken is an artist filmmaker and composer based in rural Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland.
He creates observational film, musical and sound works, performances and installations. A fellow traveller of Broken20 for a long time now, his work as composer and film-maker showed frequent overlaps with the sonic and textural obsessions the label shares.

Building on the soundtracks for his cinematic collaborations with Emma Dove, 'Mirror Lands' and 'The Terrestrial Sea', Lyken's piece is a single track that carries the full title 'the bark felt loose and when I pulled it off I found grubs the size of thumbs eating the tree from the inside'.

It begins as a brooding piece of sound design, lurking somewhere below the surface with elements of drone, flickering white noise and offcuts of found sound. As he writes, “If Rolf Julius had woken up one day with a head cold and cobbled together a scratchy mixtape of low fidelity loops, feedback and the tail ends of field recordings to try and make sense of a world gone absolutely bananas, it might sound something like this.”

The piece lurks with intent for its first five minutes, before a thick baritone ripple breaks through the morass and the first purely melodic sine tones start to sound like singing wine glasses from afar. The music continues to shift in discrete sections, at times tiptoeing actively across the stereo field, at others retreating into somnolence and passivity. Peaks and troughs, bass and top-end, light and dark.

David Fyans aka Erstlaub is Broken20's art director, a musician and designer whose most recent release was 'The Somnambulist's Field Guide' DVD (b20_26) just a few weeks ago.

Never one for a cheery take, Fyans' written piece is a rumination on the physical and emotional experiences of pure darkness. He contemplates the all-consuming nature of it, like “the infinite noise floor, the sound of a mixing desk with the gain cranked right up with nothing playing, the prickle of static, the weightless crush of dread pushing you down into the mattress.”

As with Orphax's 'The Empty Room (li_series 04) the writing that accompanies the audio changes its dynamic hugely, adding an unsettled claustrophobia that seems to double up as bewildered agoraphobia at the same time.

Taken together, the pieces evoke a kind of invocation that's been generated to ward off malevolent forces, whether they constitute “a world gone bananas” or the tight grip of fear in Fyans' writing. Either way, the artists channel their creative efforts both to banish the iniquity and to occupy their senses in the hope that the dread will pass.


released October 7, 2016


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