L-NE have chosen a somewhat challenging path to walk, in that it sets out to audibly document installation work that very often encompasses physical and visceral elements that can only best be appreciated within the environment they were designed for. It’s a little like looking at one quarter of a painting, and trying to discern it’s overall meaning and physical presence. I have taken issue with this with other labels, and in most cases would have preferred to have seen or experienced the thing live, or certainly as a DVD document to accompany the recording.
Having experienced some of Schaeffer’s work live, I can testify to his ingenious and often startlingly simple approach, most of his work being based in or around the use or misuse of turntables, and to be around this installation must have been like confronting a Mark Rothko painting for the first time in all its elemental, vital richness.
The cover image certainly confirms this, with a set of turntables iconically set up, bathed in red light, a spiritually incandescent glow around them that visually evokes a stark, sombre, yet highly charged atmosphere even before a sound is encountered. Extended Play sets out to celebrate the spirit of hope and renewal taking as its central theme the wartime “Jodoform” cryptic musical language that was broadcast by the BBC world service, and interpreted by the Polish Underground. Schaeffer, alongside Michael Jennings, developed a score based on Cello, Violin, Piano, Acoustic Ensemble, and the Jodoform, and cut each segment into vinyl. These recordings were then played at alternating speeds that were triggered to stop playing as the audience moved around them. From this breathtakingly simple premise, emerges a deeply evocative set of atmospherics, charged with melancholy, each piece can be heard “winding down” as the audience move around it, then springing back to life, to restore the continuity of the piece, and rejoin the ensemble. This is an inspiring, and poetic recording that celebrates and commemorates the life and energies of Schaeffer’s newly born daughter, and the birth of his mother, born as she was at a significant point of the conflict in Warsaw..Schaeffer poignantly posits the question, “how opposite can two beginnings be?”
Extended Play is a worthy listen in its entirety, and I was struck with the same sensations that I was when visiting the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, that within that deep sense of fear, and almost claustrophobic silence, the strength and triumph of the human spirit can only serve to humble and inspire us all, and resonate through time. A fine piece of work for a fine label..essential. BGN