Jos Smolders – “Nowhere: Exercises In Modular Synthesis & Field Recording

My works have always been precise, meticulously edited. In the last decade or so I have left the idea of a preconceived/designed composition. There is only a vague idea before I start recording. Through my Zen practice I have become interested in the approach described above. I translated the calligrapher’s method to my sessions with the modular synthesizer. I concentrate while connecting the patch and setting the parameters at the start of a session. Then I start the various sonic movements, letting things flow and interfering only when necessary. Afterwards I leave the original sounds intact as much as possible, trying to limit overdubs and extensive editing. The flow of the ‘here’ and the ‘now’ guides me. – Jos Smolders

Tacitly avoiding the dry ‘academia’ of modular synthesis, Smolders’ album marries urban brutalism to modern, organic process. There are plenty of Geiger-Counter type click and pops that, after pressing the ‘play’ button, I was unsure whether the release was playing correctly or not.

Like a post apocalyptic Fukoshima vista, this album is bleak, barren and cold – but beautiful. This is what draws me to it:

This is not a difficult listen – but a masterful recording. All compositions performed, edited, and mastered by Jos Smolders at EARLabs Studio, 2015-16 – this album will see the light of day on 10th January 2017 on Cronica Records.

Taking inspiration from the Zen calligraphy on the front cover, ‘First thought: best thought’. I cannot shake the motion picture La Jetée out of my frame of reference – indeed this album would prove a suitable alternative sound-track. The film, La Jetée is one of nuclear apocalyptic horror. Mankind is fighting for it’s survival as a now subterranean species after the nuclear holocaust.

There is not as much hope within this recording, as there is simple beauty. ‘Nowhere: Exercises In Modular Synthesis & Field Recording’ is a well executed, timely piece. Sometimes the synthesiser sounds like a garbled transmission, other times it sounds like burning nuclear clouds – the field recording are processed to sound like scrambled transmissions from a different time – the staccato pulse of the LFO on Jos’s synthesiser mimics gunfire, chimes and drones. And the drones are so gossamer that a slight breeze could take them. To be the work of one man with minimal overdubs, this is a testament to the man.

As anyone who has had a chance to play with a modular synthesiser will know – they are not for the fain of heart. There is a plethora of wave-forms, filters, dials and buttons that I would not know how to operate. However, Jos Smolders carries his craft to an exciting new level.

Drawing on the Zen influences for this album, ‘Nowhere: Exercises In Modular Synthesis And Field Recording’ sees a transmission. However, this time it is not a zen dharma transmission – this album sees the passing of the bâton brutaliste from one mind to another, unpolluted.

Released on Cronica Records, ‘Exercises In Modular Synthesis And Field Recording’ sees the light of day on the tenth of January 2017.

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