Some of the most rewarding aspects of experimental music are the variety of ways musicians and composers approach sound. For some (and I think of Joan LaBarbara) sound is something like paint– it can be layered, spread, and mixed. For another artist, perhaps Phill Niblock, sound is like light; it fills a space fully and changes as we alter our relation to it. And if I can be allowed to imagine further, I will say that for Matt Rogalsky, sound is like an atom.
For atoms, it is not only important to understand how much, and how many, and what type; but to also recognize the forces that bind them. In this sense, the “empty” space is equally important. Ions, compounds, and complex chemicals are not just added “pieces” they are a re-arrangement of space. In the XI Records 2-disc release “Memory Like Water,” Rogalsky often uses these “empty” spaces to musical effect; custom software teases out unnoticed detail, alters duration, and changes their relation to the original sound itself. In a way, Rogalsky breaks sounds into pieces smaller than their elements– something like musical fission. I picture these unstable sounds… What is the sound of something with only duration?
Like all my favorite musicians, Rogalsky sees the possibilities for sound creation everywhere. A violin, guitars, and radios are each used in a different working of the composition “Kash,” and the source for “Sprawl (western magnetics)” is apparently another compact disc!
Personal aesthetics aside, “Memory Like Water” is a well-assembled album. Flawless sound clarity and full-bodied tones are the norm for XI releases, and these discs do not disappoint in this regard. I appreciate the well-written, informative liner notes, which deftly avoid spoiling a first listen while still providing a lot of info.