Olivia Speaks: Olivia Louvel On [Hepworth Resounds]

olivia

[Hepworth Resounds] is a two-part exploration of the work of sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903 – 1975) by voice artist Olivia Louvel. The first part, The Sculptor Speaks was broadcast by Resonance FM in January 2020 and is followed by SculptOr, released by Louvel’s Cat Werk Imprint label today.

Olivia spoke to Documentary Evidence about the origins of the project and what it as that resonated so much about Hepworth’s work – and voice.

I have always been fascinated by the interplay of voice and sculpture.

I recently researched the subject in The Sculpted Voice: An Exploration Of Voice In Sound Art. The first piece I made on Barbara Hepworth was ‘Studio’, which is now featured on the album SculptOr. For that I recorded sounds in the art and metal workshops at the University of Brighton.

I was familiar with her sculptures – she is an icon – but it’s only when I began to read her writings that things took a new turn, and I could see how I could compose with her words.

I work at the intersection of creation and documentation, often taking existing texts as a point of departure. Delving into her creative process, I could question my own creative process and relationship to sculpting sounds. I visited her Sculpture Garden in St Ives back in 2017 and then I went to the Wakefield museum too. Recently, I attended her exhibition at Musée Rodin, in Paris.

Voice is a material I enjoy manipulating. My practice is built upon a long-standing exploration of the voice, whether sung or spoken, and its manipulation through digital technology as a compositional method.

Largely I use digital tools which employ virtual methods of sculpting, I worked with Audiosculpt (Ircam) and GRM Tools (GRM-INA).

The starting point for [Hepworth Resounds] was her extensive body of writings, which paved the way for SculptOr, a suite of nine pieces available as digipak CD. So the project started with her words but then en route I began to play with a snippet of her voice for ‘Use Your Own Body’, the first track on the album, in which she says that “every sculpture must be touched”. I thought how wonderful it would be to work more with her voice, to touch her voice. And so the project evolved.

‘Must Carve A Stone’ by Olivia Louvel (dir. Paul Kendall)

During my research at the British Library, I discovered the existence of a 1961 tape called The Sculptor Speaks and I was able to obtain the digitised file thanks to Sophie Bowness, trustee of the Hepworth Estate.

The Sculptor Speaks is a 1961 recording of Barbara Hepworth’s voice, illuminating her creative process. Recorded by Hepworth herself in her studio in St Ives, the tape’s initial purpose was for a recorded talk to accompany slides for the British Council. I am creating for it a new sound environment, effectively re-sounding the tape; re-sounding as in bringing a new resonance, a new context to the object, an object which had been neglected, just waiting for a new status. So we could say that SculptOr is based on words, and The Sculptor Speaks is based on the direct carving of her voice. Both objects together form [Hepworth Resounds].

The Sculptor Speaks, as a first iteration, was premiered on Resonance FM on 10th of January 2020, celebrating her date of birth. From this stereo version, I plan to bring her voice in the space – in the context of a multi-speaker diffusion – so the audience can experience the physicality of her voice, discover this rich oral material and acquire a new sensorial perspective on her legacy.

Interview: Mat Smith

SculptOr by Olivia Louvel is released February 7 2020 by Cat Werk Imprint. Buy Sculptor here.

(c) 2020 Olivia Louvel for Documentary Evidence

Fiona Brice – Paris (Olivia Louvel Multiplié Mix) (Bella Union single, 2016)


Olivia Louvel – founder of Cat Werk Imprint and frequent collaborator with Paul ‘PK’ Kendall – has remixed ‘Paris’ from Fiona Brice’s Postcards From album. Brice is a violinist and composer who has worked with many pop acts, as well as having a core role in Placebo.

Louvel’s approach is to take Brice’s beautiful violin and piano passages and leave them relatively untouched, pure even, but add beds of sound and tiny, popping beats and other sonic interventions to create a delicate, subtly soundworld. The mix recalls the fragility of Delia Gonzalez’s recent album while also having a textural depth that’s a lot like listening in 3D.

The mix is taken from Postcards Reframed, which is available on iTunes.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Paul Kendall – From The Penman Press (Cat Werk Imprint album, 2016)

from the penman press: cat werk imprint | box+cd cw010 | 07/2016
angleterror original digital release: cat werk imprint | dl cw002 | 01/11/2011

From The Penman Press by Paul Kendall is nothing short of beautiful. Housed in a minimalist brown cardboard box with simple lettering, this is a work of art – a statement – even before you’ve prised off the lid.

Inside, you’ll find unique hand printed A5 images, all monochrome and appealingly spartan, each representing a painstaking letterpress experiment by Kendall. It’s like looking at what Bridget Riley might have delivered had she focussed on designs for abstract architecture instead of headache-inducing artistic mindfuckery.

What’s all the more appealing about the starkly minimal prints is how at odds they are with Angleterror, the Paul Kendall album included within the box in a newly sparkling remastered form by AGF (Antye Greie / Antye Greie-Fuchs / Antye Greie-Ripatti). Angleterror was originally released in 2011 as a Bandcamp download, and has never been issued in a physical form. It would be somewhat disingenuous to describe Angleterror as a sprawl, but in its dense layers and skipping tendency to veer with jump-cut precision from one idea to the next – inventively, never restlessly – it is the maximalist antithesis of the artwork; the yin to its yang, even.

From The Penman Press was issued in a run of just 100 copies, most of which should have now been sold given how captivating it is. Check here to see if you can still get one.

Promotional videos for ‘Glass Eye’ and ‘Aspirateur’ can be found below. Below those you’ll find my own, newly remastered, review of Angleterror from 2011.

Thanks to Felix.

‘Glass Eye’ Paul Kendall from Cat Werk Imprint on Vimeo.

‘Aspirateur’ Paul Kendall from Cat Werk Imprint on Vimeo.

Angleterror review (Originally published 2011)


Paul Kendall will be a familiar name to any Mute fan thanks to his credit as an engineer, producer and mixer on many releases over a thirteen year period that stretched from 1984 to 1997. PK, as he was known, seemed to work with most artists on the label in one capacity or another across Mute’s electronic and non-electronic roster, and those initials on a release always seemed to mark it out as very special indeed.

Kendall as a musician, rather than studio guy, was something that wasn’t really heard in earnest until he started the Parallel Series label as an off-shoot of Mute, releasing four compelling collaborations with Andrei Samsonov, Simon Fisher Turner, Bruce Gilbert / Robert Hampson and also The Faulty Caress (under the alias Piquet), before splitting the sub-label off for one post-Mute release (a collaboration between Kendall and Olivia Louvel, Capture, as The Digital Intervention in 2003). Kendall then headed off to work with ex-Depeche Mode man Alan Wilder‘s long-running Recoil project.

Angleterror was originally released as a digital download in 2011 on the Cat Werk Imprint run by Olivia Louvel. The seven tracks presented here were mostly recorded between 2002 and 2007 when Kendall was living in Paris and find him exploring some pretty harrowing soundscape and contemporary concrète works that are every bit as un-nerving as the picture of the indeterminate creature on the sleeve.

Central to the album are four pieces – ‘Glass Eye’, ‘Betricht’, ‘Wheel’ and ‘Call Of Wild – that feature David Husser’s guitar. Husser completed the Shotgun mix of Recoil’s ‘Prey’ which was released as a download in 2008, and also recorded a version of Depeche’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’ with the band Y Front. For these pieces, Kendall provided Husser with a series of pre-existing soundscapes and drone templates, over which the guitarist improvised; Kendall then treated the contributions as source inputs, re-editing and re-processing the outputs into the forms presented here. What’s interesting about this approach is the fact that Kendall’s final versions exist only because they were responses to Husser’s work, which in turn only arose as a response to Kendall’s original frameworks. It’s presumably the case that the pair could keep referring the responses back to one another indefinitely, creating works that would presumably be a huge distance from the original composed source.

‘Glass Eye’ has an almost Manuel Göttsching sense of melodic repetitiveness; raw electricity bursts pass over bass clusters and almost bluesy chord changes; tense, strangled guitar sounds leap upwards and are sucked back into the noise bed that’s developed. There’s a rough beauty about ‘Glass Eye’ particularly when it coalesces into a kind of mesmerising, beatless motorik rock just after the halfway mark. In complete contrast, ‘Wheel’ starts with pockets of whining sound before veering unexpectedly into a dirty blues with a nagging, simple beat and layers of low-slung axe wrangling punctured by randomised sonic events and abrasive noise interludes. It sounds like nothing else here, and as it fades back into the drone cycles that opened the piece, you can’t help but wonder if that extended blues section wasn’t just a slightly unsettling dream.

A different approach was taken on ‘Starvation’ and ‘Aspirateur’, which Kendall describes as being built from ‘first principles with guitar gestures as their source’. The guitar on ‘Starvation’ was provided by Guy Parker, while the identity of the guitarist on ‘Aspirateur’ isn’t identified, but its scratchy cut and thrust was inspired by sorely missed improv titan Derek Bailey. ‘Starvation’ is a stately waltz-paced piece built up from clattering IDM glitch-beats that develops rapidly into a punishing bass-heavy industrial electronica with lots of distorted bass noises and fast-paced switches between channels. Even though it probably never existed outside a computer there’s a sense of patches being forced into complicity, the segments where mere tracery is left and Guy Parker’s dark, cinematic guitar shines through suggesting the software couldn’t quite cope. The final dark ambient segment is how I expect Trent Reznor might attempt a soundtrack for a new noir version of Blade Runner directed by David Lynch. Sticking with cinematic imagery, ‘Aspirateur’ opens with what feels like a transmission from an abandoned spaceship drifting aimlessly through the galaxy, possibly harbouring some sort of terrifying alien lifeform – certainly the chilling processed breathing sounds and general sense of chaos in the intrusion of various sounds do much to enforce that sonic vision. It’s very dark, in a spine-chilling sense. You know what’s about to happen; it’s more a case of when.

The final track on the album, ‘Route 1 + 2’, was produced using a piece of software called Thonk which appears to have been a program that could process source inputs using complex algorithmic functions, often taking very long periods to deliver its outputs. Kendall believes that the source material for this may also have been a guitar, allowing us to contrast a parameterised software-based improvisor’s response to source material alongside that of David Husser on the four tracks he worked on here, at least in theory – if ‘Route 1+2’ began life with a guitar, there’s little evidence of that apart from a feint hint way off in the distance. The track is a series of scrapes, juddering noises and fractured sounds that skip and squiggle evasively around your ears, a maddening inner-body soundscape laced with a dose of lurking dread.

Kendall has engineered both of Olivia Louvel’s releases on Cat Werk Imprint – 2011’s award-winning Doll Divider and 2012’s o, music for haiku – both of which are highly collectible physical releases. With Angleterror PK proves once again that his inquisitive ear for sonic exploration remains undiminished. An almost-Burroughsian sliced-up video of Kendall talking about the album can be viewed below, complete with sagely spectacles, roll-ups and swanky coffee machines.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence