on tomaga’s memory in vivo exposure, out via hands in the dark

Tomaga – Memory In Vivo Exposure (2017)

At their best, records are provocations – series of encounters with ideas, the progress and content of which is beyond our control. They are internal worlds to which we are given access, exploding outward in conversation with the cultural proximity within which they sit – a tangle of networks sculpted in sound. Tomaga’s latest release, Memory In Vivo Exposure, issued last month by Hands in the Dark, is exactly this – an effort within which subtly and constraint mask the complexity of the territory it traverses – an intoxicating capsule of organized sound, which, while worthy on those terms alone, doubles as provocation to how we locate what we hear.

Tomaga is the UK based percussion duo of Tom Relleen and Valentina Magaletti, both of whom have worked in a number of other notable projects – Relleen in The Oscillation, and Magaletti in Vanishing Twin, Gum Takes Tooth, and UUUU  (who will release their debut LP on Editions Mego next month). Since 2013 the pair have issued a stream of releases, the majority of which have been housed on Hands in the Dark, exploring those territories at the edges of repetitive, polyrhythmic, and arrhythmic percussion work, placed in conjunction with an evolving pallet of electronics.

Memory In Vivo Exposure encounters the duo shifting away from the harsher, more fractured structures present in their previous releases, toward a territory of hypnotic, repetitive polyrhyths and subtle ambience, which, despite its seductiveness, feels far more radical and risky. Housed within these structures and tones is a sprawling network of connections and ideas – a provocation to address the schism between aesthetics – what a thing sounds like, against what it is and does.

Memory In Vivo Exposure’s references are impossible to avoid. It is a work which channels 1960’s and 70’s Minimalism at a moment which, after suffering decades of diminished relevance, the movement is graced with a swell of renewed interest. It is also part of a landscape which, consequently, has birthed new generation of practitioners, casting their gaze to those once game changing innovations of decades past, deploying the aesthetics of Minimalism – its structures and sonic pallet, through reference, appropriation, and pastiche – something which should not be taken as necessarily sympathetic with the spirit and intellectual concern from which those sounds and structures initially sprung. To find a spirit, you must look beyond the sound, toward what it is and does.

Against its seductive repetitions, constraint, and harmonics – the aesthetics, it’s easy to lose sight of how radical the origins of Minimalism were. Breaking with linearity, hermetic tendencies, and restrictive views of progress within the traditions of Western music, this generation of composers – emerging between the mid 1960’s and the outset of the 80’s, spanning the diverse approaches of Steve Reich, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Philip Glass, Tony Conrad, and Henry Flynt, to those of Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Lucier, Joan La Barbara, and many others, sought an inclusive music which captured something fundamental and at the heart of who we are – an elemental music which cast threads toward the earliest moments of humanity, incorporating elements of diverse traditions from across the globe. The result was as intellectually radical and sophisticated as it was primal, proposing a new sense of possibility for what the future of organized sound might be music.

Particularity within movements emerging from the United States and Europe, the lingering influence of the 1960’s and 70’s avant-garde is everywhere, bubbling just out of view and reach. In unpredictable ways, the hopes and dreams of this generation where realized – their vision of the elemental, sonic democracy, and hybridity, with their radical techniques, offering the seeds for disco, hip-hop, many forms of electronic music, Post-Punk, and countless evolving and discrete iterations of experimental practice. Their hopes and ideas have been adopted so widely that we often forget their source.

Rather than simply being a sound or aesthetic, it is Minimalism’s porous inclusiveness and hybridity – it’s most radical elements, which Memory In Vivo Exposure embraces and what makes it distinct and special. Unlike a great deal of the current landscape, these sounds and structures do not reduce themselves to pastiche. They are the product of an evolution which begins Minimalism’s origins, but which incorporates an entire history of its diaspora. It is a record which could have only been made now and which finds its radicalism in the defiance of the hermetic – the repeating orthodoxy.

A true pleasure for the mind as much as the ear, I expect great things are in store for Tomaga as they move forward. With their issue of Byron Westbrook’s fantastic Body Consonance  Hands In the Dark ended 2017 on a high. Check out Memory In Vivo Exposure below, and pick it up from the label (the first run of LPs sold out in a matter of days but they are pressing a second run as we speak) or from a record shop near you.

-Bradford Bailey


Tomaga – Memory In Vivo Exposure (2017)























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