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Interview with Vinyl Terror & Horror

Worst-case scenario

Click on any image below to enlarge or to play the videos.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Spiral record, a hybrid of a recording of the Kaiserwaltz and the record cover it it is normally stored in. [Click image to enlarge]

The Setup and Equipment

In a concert situation, the setup used by Vinyl Terror & Horror is exclusively based on vinyl records and turntables with all the possibilities and restrictions inherent to this medium. One of the record players has a construction built around it with multiple systems and pick-up arms, which makes it possible to play up to 8 records simultaneously. The records are placed on top of each other with rolls of tape in between, used as spacers (see Video 1 from 0:25 onwards). Another two record players are expanded with extra pick-ups so that they can play the same record from several points at once. The extra pick-ups are standing free and are flexible to change between the players (Video 1 from 2:40). The last item is an old 7‑inch record player that can hold several records on the spindle at once. When it is done playing one of the records, a new one falls down into playing position. It has this feature (failure) that it never plays one record for more than a few seconds before it sets up and begins to play the next (Video 1 from 1:15).

Figure 2. The Vinyl Terror & Horror setup: on the left, Camilla Sørensen’s setup which includes a player with multiple tone arms, and on the right, a stack of different records is played by Greta Christensen using another series of tone arms. On the top of the stack on the right is a “ghost 7-inch record”. Installation detail from the XIII Biennial of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean held in Bari, Italy, in 2008. [Click image to enlarge]

We select records with a wide variety of musical styles, a few of them being our own productions made in in a unique edition used in live performance. The other records may be commercial recordings or custom-made. Any of the records used may be left intact for standard playing, or one or more of them might be cut into pieces and reassembled (Fig. 3 and Video 1 from 4:16) or the resulting shards can be placed on an already spinning record, so the system plays the record and shard in alternation (Video 1 from 6:10). Or, the grooves of a record might be removed roughly using an engraver, making it difficult for the needle to play them “properly”. But common to all of them is that the knistery [crackling] squeaking vinyl sound is cultivated through the somewhat unpredictable “misbehaviour” of the systems and playing techniques and intentionally sloppy treatment of the equipment and records by the performers themselves.

In Performance

Video play
Video 1 (7:21). A close-up look at different ways the instruments and vinyls are used in a Vinyl Terror & Horror performance. Using two decks, stacks of commercial and custom vinyls, as well as hacked records — cut-ups, hybrids, intentionally damaged or just worn-out through use — a complex sound work is built with many individually evolving layers.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Detail from the exhibition unloading (2009) at Gallery Spanien 19c in Aarhus, Denmark. Footage of a piece from the record to be continued is projected on the white LP record loosing track (both records released by vinyl terror & horror). The soundtrack from the projection mixes with the actual sound of the installation. [Click image to enlarge]

In a Vinyl Terror & Horror performance, “chance occurences” are incorporated into the performance through the prominent use of modified records. For example, with the “glass record” (parts of the vinyl are replaced by glass shards), when the needle slips out of the vinyl groove as it encounters a glass bit, the tone arm’s chaotic bouncing and scratching across the surface creates an ever-changing sound texture (Fig. 3). Underneath the record is a second tone arm that simultaneously plays the “B‑side” of the record. The audio signals are sent on separate lines to the mixer, allowing for individual control in the mix.

Figure 4
Figure 4. A modified record, with parts of the vinyl replaced by glass shards. [Click image to enlarge]

A flat spiral record (Fig. 1 and Video 1 starting at 0:00) creates a loop that varies each time the needle slides across the intertwined vinyl and Kaiserwaltzer record cover, while another spiral record is raised partly so the tone arm rides up the vinyl “hill” and falls off the edge (where the record was cut) back onto the lower part of the record in a continuous loop (Fig. 4).

Figure 5
Figure 5. Spiral record, cut so part of the record can be raised, creating a “hill” the needle climbs before falling down to the lower part of the record again. [Click image to enlarge]
Video play
Video 2 (12:21). A stroll through Vinyl Terror & Horror’s multi-room installation Worst Case Scenario (2011), presented during Enter II, held at the Kunsthallen Brandts in Odense (Denmark) from 14 October 2011 to 29 January 2012. [Click image to play video]

The sets are improvised with a few fixed points and include a lot of sound effects that are either sampled from movies or taken from sound effect records that refer to a specific situation, like the opening of a door, etc.

The convergence of these sounds, materials and performance techniques builds up an unpredictable narrative which is mixed with a disastrous paranormal picturesque horror soundscape that includes all the sounds that you might under other conditions prefer to avoid hearing from your record player.

Worst Case Scenario

This installation is composed for a door, a staircase of speakers, a telephone, a spiral record and a falling speaker. There is a clear visual connection between the sounds and where and how the sounds are played. The sculptures visually support the sounds but they do not attempt to be a trustworthy scenery to the very dramatic soundtrack. Their æsthetics are stripped down to the basic and they are in deep contrast to the frightening sounds of horror and the emotional atmosphere. There is a contradiction between fiction and reality. Like, for instance, when the door is silently opened by an electrical door opener while a squeaking sound is played from a speaker hanging on the door. Or, when the composition culminates with the sound of an airplane crashing playing from a speaker while falling from its cabinet towards the floor, but instead of smashing on the floor — like the sound would suggest — it lands softly on a pillow, whereafter it is later pulled back up into place.

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