STELARC & RAINER LINZ: FRACTAL FLESH
(NMA CD 9902 from NMA Publications; PO Box 5034, Burnley, Vic. 3121 Australia)
Stelarc and Rainer Linz have been performing interactive body-based electronic performances for over a decade. The most recent phase of this has involved the use of body sensors providing information to midi translation devices, which in turn control digital synthesizers. Additionally, they've developed a means of scanning the Internet for sound files, which can also be inserted into the performances. In some of the performances, remote audiences can see a map of Stelarc's body over the net, and by pressing certain spots on the map, can cause a low voltage to stimulate one of his muscles, forcing him to move involuntarily. These movements are then detected by the sensors, and the control signals resulting from this tell the digital synths what to do. So here we have a remote control performance system where the actions of several dispersed audience members produce sound in ways such that none of them can be aware of the totality of their actions, and that further, is mediated by the way Stelarc responds to the signals they apply to his body. This is systems composition of either an elegant and refined, or a frightening kind, depending on your orientation. I tend to favour the elegant and refined interpretation, but I can understand others, with a greater emotional investment in the notion of individual control and autonomy, being a bit puzzled by it. This CD consists of 8 excerpts from various live performances. The electronic sounds are fairly unprocessed (Rainer doesn't use all that many instrumental samples), often pretty crunchy, and they match the mechanical sounds of Stelarc's prosthetic third arm device. Additionally, in some of the Parasite tracks, various found sounds pulled off the Internet are mixed in. Track four, from the Pittsburgh performance, is fairly heavily techno-oriented, because that's what the majority of sound files the search engine found on the Internet that day were. In track five, another Parasite performance, the irregular clicks and pulses coming from Stelarc's body nicely subvert the regular rhythms of the found-object techno music fragments. It's a fascinating CD, one that repays a number of listenings. Highly recommended.
(this review was first published in Chroma)