Review: Yan Jun & Noel Meek – Mirror One (God in the Music / Zoomin’ Night, Mar 15)

mirrorone(I’m not sure what the official release date of this is; I’ve seen the 15th, 24th, and 26th in various places.)

Yan Jun describes Mirror One as “like meteorolites hiting the earth. they are buring in the atmosphere, hiting on ground, smoking, but nobody was hurt. we sitting and watching it from afar. drinking bear, crunching chips through all afternoon. at the end we clapped as well [sic].” The Beijing musician is well known for his practice of artful nonparticipation, often leaving his mysterious electronics systems to do the work on their own while he fixes a cup of tea or “crunches chips,” and one might expect this tape to be no different, especially in conjunction with the artist’s own words on the matter. But even though the two halves of this duo were polarized in separate hemispheres and unexposed to the other’s contributions for the entirety of their collaboration, Yan and Meek’s improvisations are not just active on their own, but actively converse with one another. The Auckland-based Meek, credited with “stone, metal, [and] wood,” is elbows deep in a trunk full of abstract woodland oddities at all times; whether he’s whirling resonant drones from singing bowls and resonant sheets or making a mortar-and-pestle mash of twigs and gravel, his musical gestures are steeped in earthy tactility and wide-eyed exploration, serving as an excellent counterpoint for the raw purity of Yan’s humming, screeching feedback. The pair is at their best, I think, when they’re relegated to completely opposite ends of the texture-spectrum, like in the earlier moments of “M81” when the electronics are stripped to an unstable, anemic whine against percussive clunks like woodpecker pecks recorded from inside the tree. Meek also does some hard-to-define but definitely mesmerizing work with breath on the opening track; I would love to see video footage of the musicians recording their tracks in addition to the layered tracks themselves.