Review: gbap – Dear Anton, It’s September… (self-released, Oct 12)

The first (and hopefully not the only) release by the “verbovocovisual” collaboration of collager/composer AP Monks and poet/performer Gary Barwin is a theatrical, unforgettable piece of music. Hailing from the halls of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (also the past and/or present home of several online book club friends) Barwin primarily an educator, fiction writer, and poet—that is to say, his musical credits are sparse, which is a surprise given the impressive talents and techniques at work on Dear Anton, It’s September…. With dexterous vocal incoherence, meticulous sound design, eclectic instrumental accompaniment, and a consistent, overwhelming sense of dynamism, each of the tracks (all classified with a title, date, and opus number) is a tightly tied electroacoustic knot of utterances both ecstatic and hellish. Even though the first two pieces are immediately engrossing, “ ‘A Breathing Garage… Oops, I Meant Collage—9.13.21’ (Op. 3)” was what fully sold me on this dense little oddball of a release, and it only gets better from there (the disturbingly spectral shroud of exhales, howls, bleats, and hisses is even reprised in one of the “Four Little Pieces” later on). Dear Anton, It’s September… unexpectedly but delightfully aligns with a trend of great new art brut–indebted releases beginning with The Box and continued by Cardinal Bird and Zungsang; “ ‘To Scale Redux—9.28.21’ (Op. 10 1/2)” especially feels like a quintessential spoon-slop of artful incoherence still lurking at the furthest outskirts of the tired, archaic classical tradition—an aversion, or even a derision, that is perhaps implied by the rule-breaking numbering. The concluding “ ‘ “It gives relief to do something”—9.30.21’ (Op. 12)” is worth a mention just for the triply nested quote (Bar(th)win?), but it’s also a shrewdly sublime wash of near-intelligibility and digital decay. FFO: Sten Hanson, Cawa Sorix, Lily Greenham, Xuan Ye.