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catalogue number:mimeo001
artist:Alex Keller & Meri von Kleid Smid
title:Searching for the Inverse Square
CD
price $10.00

Track Listing

1. Phar Lap
2. The Best Station is No Station
3. Focused on the Conflict at Hand
4. Message from Bunker 23

Unusual sound performances placed in unusual sonic contexts that allowed the collaborators to regenerate sound ideas in a real-time improvisational setting, moving the sources of sound around the space. All of the works use sound-ideas that have been borrowed from popular American media, from video games to self-help tapes and were performed live without any subsequent editing.

'"Searching" is definitely the right word for Alex Keller and Meri von KleinSmid's CD Searching for the inverse square. During all four of the collaborative, improvisatory performances collected on the CD, there's a distinct sense that they're are searching for something, that they're trolling through our collective memories and pop-culture consciousness in search of some truth that must lie within. That truth, of course, is elusive and more than likely non-existent. But the search itself is captivating, thought-provoking and sensuous. Each of the four performances took place in a different setting, and each used different devices as instruments. But the methodology was the same - using various sound-generating devices and moving them around, so that the recording captures a flurry of appearing and disappearing sounds. Two of the performances utilize machines that will echo through listeners of a certain age as remembrances of their childhood - "Phar Lap" uses a Speak n' Math machine and "Focused on the conflict at hand" uses two Atari systems and an Atari-themed record. In both cases these sounds are both comforting and unusual, familiar and foreign. Both offer melodic elements that make those tracks almost have an IDM accessibility to them, yet at the same time it seems silly to suggest that, as overall the feeling is disjointed and strange. The video-game explosions sounds in "Focused on the conflict at hand" echo within me in various conflicting ways, as I'm hyper-aware of the sounds' original sources (and therefore risk slipping into childhood memories and not coming back), yet trying to listen in an abstract way evokes scenes of war, or at least media representations of war (action films, cartoons). "The best station is no station" has a title which gets at the de-centering feeling of these works with a tone that seems possibly hopeful and freeing, yet the piece itself is somehow the most disturbing of the four. Battery-operated radios pick up fragments of music, commercials, and news reports ('news' meaning traffic and weather as much as anything) in a way that's suggestive of how overwhelmed we are with media sources these days; in this context the voices of a family playing a hide-and-seek game that are entwined throughout the piece come across alternately like screams and glimpses of a more people-based world. "Message from Bunker 23" uses cassettes filled with found-sound (for example, a fragments of a radio commercial, rewinded and fast-forwarded, begins the piece) but also the natural sounds of the environment in which it was recorded, the entrance to a un-used bunker, inside a park that was formerly part of a nearby Navy base. Bird, airplanes, and the cassette sounds - manipulated radio voices and music - commingle in way that always feels uneasy yet sometimes feels natural to me. Is that just me adopting to our times? Used to the co-existence of the natural world and our sometimes monstrous society? I don't know...but there's something peaceful about the piece to me, even as it's an eerie sort of peace. Taken as a whole, the four improvisations on Searching for the inverse square are filled not just with sounds but ideas. Yet the ideas are more stirred to the surface from within our own brains than communicated to us. Alex Keller and Meri von KleinSmid's probing techniques stir up thoughts, feelings and impressions that are likely to be different for each individual, though many general themes will no doubt be explored by each person listening. Those are themes that are no doubt already on the brain of most people today, by the way: 24-hour news channels, war, fears, memories. Searching for the inverse square's chief success is the way it pokes into the modern consciousness in a way that's likely to provoke listeners, not just into reacting to art, but into thinking about the current state of things.'
- Review by Dave Heaton for Erasing Clouds .

'The duo of Alex Keller and Meri von KleinSmid is one that is equally quirky as it is wonderfully adventurous. 'Searching for the inverse square' is a compilation of sorts, bringing together some of the duo's most recent works. Most of their music is made with use of simple machines ' DATs, condenser microphones, Minidisc, cassette players. The sounds on this disc are simply put eerie, and rightly so, having been recorded in basement and an old gas plant. My favourite piece is 'Focused on the conflict at hand', which turns out to be a calling card for old Atari game consoles. Both musicians use old Atari 1200 XL and 2600 systems as sources so we get a lot of blinks, oinks, pops and all around, this is just a fun piece. Another great experiment is 'The best station is no station', where two battery-operated radios are manipulated [basically, the dial is swung from right to left ' as we hear short snippets of voices along with lots of static] and a family that just happened to be at the recording location [an old unused gas plant] plays hide-and-go-seek. Voices of various family members yelling at the top of their voices as they're found are interspersed with the voices originating from the radios and at times you're guessing, which is which.'
- Review by Tom Sekowski for GAZ-ETA .

" 'And they're off with the familiar start for "Phar Lap." Recorded live at Vital 5 Gallery in Seattle, musician/educator/curator Alex Keller and composer Meri von KleinSmid team up to create something eloquent and off-putting. By modifying electronic toys, these two have truly affected the sound effects of a racetrack circa 2010, when all live action will be replaced by free-form animation. With the radio dial spinning, a family is caught while playing hide-n-seek in and around a Seattle gas tank. These unintended collaborators make for a foil to the serious toll of AM radio preaching of illiteracy, AIDS and all things Driving Miss Daisy. DATs and mics gone wild! Actually, this is quite grounded, but the radio broadcasts do get to me, even as a creative AM (ab)user myself. But in these nineteen minutes the family's laughter just winds through frugally as the echoes of the static frequencies serve as the base. I recommend that Keller and KleinSmid attend a Negativland show near them, they are "almost" there on this track, it just lacks the inherent humor in the tongue-in-cheek self-appointed authoritarian language of the media. More like a radio-thon, "The Best Station Is No Station" certainly makes it point self-evident. The knob-centric "Focused on the Conflict at Hand" finds them in the basement of a local Community College sampling the resident Ataris. So let the games begin as the track captures the tempo of excitement. It's great to hear these old-fashioned gaming sounds, where you would certainly mistake them for perhaps the warp of say, a Theremin. "Message from Bunker 23" is aided in part by its outdoor surroundings with geese and other flying craft, mixed with found cassette starts and stops atop Magnuson Park in Seattle. The voiceovers discussing prostate cancer prevention and disease are contorted through crude physical manipulations. A dada threat is made loud, and unclear. In its ambiguity, the end result of "Searching for the Inverse Square" is something that would make Kurt Schwitters smile a mile."
- Review by T.J. Norris for Igloo .