Tim Olive & Yan Jun – Brother of Divinity
Cal Lyall & Tim Olive – Lowering
A plain, utilitarian packaging bears certain psychological advantages. It’s anonymous, almost cut-rate; think of the various possible uses, quotidian or sordid, for a brown paper bag. While Pearl Jam profitably employed this aesthetic for dozens of 2000s-era live ‘bootlegs” to signify an illicit, semi-official cool, Tim Olive’s embrace of chipboard sleeves feels more inspired by a perverse desired to rile, to riddle, to encourage underestimation. Surely, uninitiated browsers reason, their fingers tracing printing-pressed designs angular or spherical, these must be interchangeable. They are not; they are shaggy, differentiated streams of improv rupture, amorphous, elemental, reaching. Releases on 845 Audio, the collaborative label Olive operates, are pointedly singular.
Based in Kobe, Japan, the Canadian-born artist tours steadily, accruing sonic team-ups for release at the right moment. A year and a half separates the recording and issue of 2014’s Two Sunrise, his fidgety shortwave face-off with soloist Jason Kahn, a record that essentially eats itself alive. 2012’s crispy, dread-inducing 33 Bays, where Olive’s prepared guitar and electronics brooded in sync with the electroacoustic rig of Cremaster’s Alfredo Costa Monteiro, surfaced three years after it was recorded. If you’ve a hold of your bearings, this music is calibrated to ensure that you misplace or forget you ever had them.
Two recently dispatched 845 Audio discs capture opposing poles of intensity. On Lowering, dating back to summer 2012, Olive is joined by his Supertoque bandmate Cal Lyall; Olive operates magnetic pickups, Lyall plays hydrophones – both men contribute electronics. What results is a sometimes choppy yet largely simmering transmission beamed in from another world – soupy, messy, comforting. A sparse, blurry drone that might be pure, ethereal atmosphere serves as the backdrop for irregular blurts of car engine choking, metallic clatter, tonal lowing and intermittent sci-fi echo. Industrious yet never overwhelming, Lowering emerges as an almost meditative experience: a loose net of willful miniature accidents to drape over whatever confrontational silences abound in the world beyond a pair of headphones.
The comparatively animated Brother of Divinity trades heavily in sine waves scrambled gently or aggressively, with samples snuck into the general surface melee: a Where’s Waldo? approach, with Waldo replaced by a crying kitten or squashed snatch of pop or re-re-regurgitated Morse code guitar. In their questing, Olive and Yan Jun – the former on magnetic pickups, both on electronics – seem determined to draw down on or sharpen some ineffable sensation, like amateur radio enthusiasts straining to lock onto a pirate radio signal halfway around the world. Rubbery, stippling pulses, piercing squeaks and sheets of shivering statics are their (and our) rewards for sonic labours that are anything but plain, anything but anonymous.
Raymond Cummings, The Wire (Issue 422, April 2019)