Review: Candi Nook – How I Invented Sound and Redesigned the Human Ear (sPLeeNCoFFiN, Sep 30)

The dry, frank braggadocio of the title is reaches beyond simply a fleeting joke or ironic heading for this archival double CD set. In fact, it’s the very essence of Candi Nook’s musical approach; though How I Invented Sound and Redesigned the Human Ear spans a staggering range of styles and setups from throughout the UK sound artist’s active years (1998–2003), every single track oozes the same strain of unabashed experimentation, runs pell-mell toward the bizarre with the same unhinged, slipshod confidence. Beautifully presented in a sturdy six-panel digipak featuring mesmerizing photo arrays by the artist herself, the selected discography traces Nook’s winding creative path through analog noise collages, surreal synth sketches, ambitious texture-scapes and mood pieces, plucky MIDI mash, exploratory sound art, the works.

Tracks from the project’s debut cassette release (and my personal favorite) Queen of the Swirley-Eyed Ant Monkeys (1998) kick off the carnival tour, “Clean Penis Eating” at the forefront with its deft yet appropriately crude cocktail of 90s four-track harsh and irreverent sample plundering. The rawness may be most apparent in these loud, distorted early cuts, but it’s present in all of them, the rough edges and unpolished grit only highlighting how foundational this material is in retrospect: I hear eerily accurate presagings of Women of the Pore’s otherwise singular “bunker jazz” in “Dusk” and “Hollowgram”; echoes of Arca amidst the dadarkness of “Dreamfeed”; plans to pass the playful avant-electronica torch to Dan Deacon in “Teaspoon.” Nook does some looking-back of her own as well, notably with “Highly Intelligent Witty and Elegant” from eccentric opus In the Pink (2001), which in two short minutes manages to channel Ruth White, The Residents, and Miranda July. But of course this is all just my personal mapping, because at its heart this music is fundamentally its own, the one-of-a-kind oeuvre of a woman inventing sound and having a blast doing it.