Somnambule - Writing About Music

Russell Haswell ~ Live Salvage 1997-2000

Mego jewelcase re-issue replaces deluxe digipak

Black on black packaging encloses:

06:52:51, 1999, Metro.
Too late for virus checkers, firewalls, etc: playing Haswell’s cd has activated an executable and your system is under attack. You have two options: panic and attempt to resist or adapt and survive. The former may have the same effect as struggling in quicksand, better to adopt the latter strategy. The virus has made the categoric leap from software into wetware in the form of a large, abrasive worm and it’s burrowing down your auditory canal. All resistance is drilled smooth, the tympanic membrane (better known as your eardrum) pushed aside and direct contact made with the auditory nerve. Cathartic may or may not be the word for this experience.

16:03:54, 1998, Klangturm, St Pölten
Initially it appears contact is being actively established with inorganic matter: plastics, metals for the purposes of research. There’s an abrupt change to a low level roaring – is this the sound of blood bubbling through veins and then beginning to boil? Given its predecessor it’s difficult not to be on edge in case of sudden attack.

07:53:60, 1998, 121, London
Cuts to crowd sounds: inane chatter, the psssst of cans being opened, burps, etc. Talk continues apparently oblivious of Haswell’s sonic interjections. Whether this is sardonic, and humorous, reflection upon the imperviousness of audiences or a pointed equating of machine and biological noise is left to the listener to decide. Whatever the decision, the shift of perspective from artist to audience is fascinating and is echoed in the closing seconds of the cd as sparse applause and the sound of a glass bottle hitting the floor greets the end of a lengthy onslaught of noise.

Live Salvage is soundscaping moulded by alien aesthetics. Form is discernable, but it seems absurd, almost bourgeois to consciously delineate structure in the face of such noisome extremes. The impulse may be related to Brian Eno’s observation that any haphazard sequence – say a video recording of people passing in the street – acquires significance through the mind’s desire to discern meaningful pattern. Better to sublimate oneself in Haswell’s sound... and what a sound: simultaneously excoriating and exultant, sculpted and propulsive. Live Salvage is very beautiful sound/noise/music.

Place Live Salvage carefully on your cd shelf, perhaps with a firebreak between it and the other jewel cases to avoid data corruption.
Colin Buttimer
November 2003
Published by Milkfactory