Review: Tom White – Run Amok (Glistening Examples, Oct 17)

With Run Amok, a gorgeous new CD out on Glistening Examples, artist Tom White examines the volcanic landscape of Lanzarote, a Spanish island west of Morocco in the Atlantic. Lanzarote was the location where Werner Herzog filmed his absurdist black comedy Even Dwarfs Started Small. The 1971 movie, featuring the ridiculous escapades of a group of dwarfs as they rebel against the nameless institution in which they are confined, has a unique and elusive atmosphere despite its whimsicality, largely due to the mysterious environment in which it was filmed. Herzog and White each capture this environment in their own way, the former with beautiful blacks and whites and a wanton mixture of shaky camera work and static shots, and the latter with carefully mixed audio recordings. Though White doesn’t rely heavily on the use effects or processing techniques on these recordings, they are largely unidentifiable, spinning up into tactile, rocky whirlwinds like gravel in an air-popped popcorn machine. He makes use of many small scraping sounds, overlaying them and playing them backwards to create crackle collages that are both gritty and effervescent. When effects are used, they only increase the alien-ness of Lanzarote’s sound palette, whittled down to a dark, electric meditation on “Del Rio.” With ten tracks, White presents a lot of ideas, each distinct but naturally evolving into each other. While I’m not sure that Run Amok would make a good score for Even Dwarfs Started Small, the two works demonstrate how the attributes of a physical place can be communicated in different ways.

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