Richard Francis, bio, discography, bandcamp, contact

 


Richard Francis
'Together alone, together apart' CD
CMR-21
Released by CMR, New Zealand, 2007

Label Press Release:
"Tracks 1 and 2 recorded 2006-2007, track 3 recorded 2003 and previously released on V/A Audible New Frontiers CD (Physics Room/Radio NZ). Sound sources: field recordings of indoor and outdoor spaces; handling of fabric, wood and plastic; self noise of home stereo amplifiers, loudspeakers and record players."

Reviews

"The building blocks of 'Together Alone, Together Apart' by New Zealand's Richard Francis are 'sound moments': sonic interludes of a dozen or so seconds of environmental sound, whose subtle arrangements and cross-contaminations are the springboard for the compositions found here. Given the quiet volumes, sounds at the threshold of audibility are presumably those which have captured his imagination. A soft hiss and variable low end frequency introduce the first untitled track, with small crackles, glitches and echoes sporadically breaking through. The second is considerably more dramatic, with a flapping rhythm emerging from a grounded hiss like a moth's wings beating against glass. The final track is almost undetectable, even with headphones, and strengthens the connections between Francis's work and the reductive strategies of Bernhard Gunter or John Hudak. Here, swells of deep frequencies rise and fall along a fog of unsettled static, concluding a refined and highly recommended album."
The Wire, UK, 2007

"Most of the time, we walk around with our sensory system only partially activated. Lost in thoughts, just a small amount of the astounding richness in images and sounds around us reaches our consciousness, while the rest is filtered out as unnecessary, superflous data. To Richard Francis, this loss of information is a waste. In fact, his musical cosmos experiences its big bang each and every instance his mind picks up a fascinating emmanation, a hollering sound or a subtle noise. His art can be seen as an act of sharing - and on 'Together alone, together apart' he allows the listener to partake in three short, but vivid street scenes from the city of his memory. For it is a process of remembering, reconstructing and recontextualising which puts the pieces of the puzzle together. Francis is either not interested in simply carrying a microphone with him wherever he goes or aware of the inbuilt difficulty of capturing a sonic impression on tape. Recordings of indoor and outdoor events and spaces can therefore serve as a spark or a valuable basis to start the compositional process with, but they are never an end in themselves. Different materials, such as Wood, Plastic and various fabrics carry an equal importance in realising his vision, as do old-fashioned record players. The composer, in the eyes of Richard Francis, needs to become truly active again and make use of his own hands to shape the immaterial images of his memory into music. Even though I greatly appreciate the work of the manifold field recording labels out there, there is a lot to be said for returning repertoire-responsibility to the artist not only in terms of the finished product but also in terms of its physical sound realisation. In the case of Francis at least, the direct physical contact with his materials turns a music full of hiss, grinding, white noise and granular events into a human and emotional art. While a thick layer of static covers up many of his manipulations, it never serves as a cloak to hide his true face, but rather as a blanket to keep the body warm. Even when there seems to be nothing happening, one instinctively attributes this to the active will of the performer of following the natural breath of the piece. On two of the three tracks contained in 'Together Alone, together apart', this leads to silent textures moving as delicately as a curtain caressed by the evening wind. Track two, with its nervous subcurrent, is the exception, albeit a nuanced one – in the gentle undulation of its insectoid frequencies, all edges loose their sharpness. It is an associational style, its skin bearing resemblances to processes like rain: Never resting, yet always calm. Richard Francis' approach is a remarkable renunciation of the general tendency of experimental music of seeing the world holistically. His works instead search for the hidden meanings contained in every atom, their implications and emotive effects. This is also why they can take up to ten minutes to describe moments, which may have lasted no longer than a couple of seconds. The reason is obvious: Time is irrelevant for a composer, who wants his oeuvre to be accurate but not objective. In the end, both concepts will undoubtedly come to the same conclusions. But it seems important to have someone out there who keeps both eyes open all the time, searching for those singular diamonds lost all too often in our daily lives."
Tokafi, Germany, 2008

"Despite still be young of age and nature, Richard Francis has been active in the field of music since 1996. You may remember his Eso Steel band and his CMR label which he uses these days as a vehicle to release lathe cut records from the New Zealand scene. But here he releases his own work on a CD. Since many years Francis' work deals with field recordings and acoustic objects, such as fabric, wood, plastic, 'self noise of home stereo amplifiers', loudspeakers and record players. He writes that he is inspired by 'a particular moment of sound heard in my surroundings, [I've] come to call these brief sonic impressions 'sound moments', of 10-20 seconds in length where my attention is drawn to an interesting combination and arrangement of sounds'. His music is not a recording of these moments, but rather a 'cover' version using different sounds. That is a nice way, but hard to check out. We didn't hear these original sound moments. Three lengthy tracks here of not too careful music. It seems to be based, at least from this perspective, on a bunch of loops, which fade in and out in an irregular mode. Continuos sustaining sounds of crackling sound, low sonic rumble and debris flying around. Is it drone music? Well, perhaps it is. Is it microsound? Indeed, it might be. But it's harsher, more present, certainly in the first two tracks. It doesn't lull the listener to sleep. Perhaps it's musique concrete? It is, but the aspect of a continuous sounds built from loops may suggest otherwise. I think this is the strong thing from this CD. It sounds familiar but upon close inspection it's not easy to lump this into any genre. A strong CD, that at just under thirty minutes, is perhaps a bit short. Another piece would have been most welcome."
Vital Weekly, The Netherlands, 2007

"Sound artists like Matt Shoemaker, Loren Chasse, and Steve Roden are some of the very few who are successful in turning found objects and field recordings into thoroughly engaging compositions that don't rely upon the flashiness of techniques to make their work successful. Add New Zealand's Richard Francis to that gaggle as well. It's been a while since any solo work has been available from Francis, who has previously recorded under the moniker Eso Steel; and more recently, he's been entertaining many a collaboration with his fellow NZ noiseniks such as Campbell Kneale and Michael Morley. On Together Alone, Together Apart, Francis turns to the miniscule events of daily life whose peculiar sounds capture his imagination. It could be a crackle from rain falling or the distant surf of the Pacific Ocean or a creaking electric radiator or the hissing static from television snow. It's these small sounds which Francis has recorded and stretched into relatively longer compositions. These rattling, crackling streams of softened white noise move in a synchronous fashion, much like the way that a huge flock of starlings can gracefully circle in the sky without bumping into each other, all moving organically in three dimensions. Think Loren Chasse, as if he were reworking any of Bernhard Gunter's compositions, making them rougher, in line with Chasse's Hedge Of Nerves disc. Headphones are certainly recommended for this album, as the last track is awfully quiet... at least, it is when there's a record store full of people. Very well done!"
Aquarius Records, USA, 2008

"Richard Francis lists "field recordings of indoor and outdoor spaces, handling of fabric, wood and plastic and self noise of home stereo amplifiers, loudspeakers and record players" as the sources for "Together alone, together apart" – common and marginal sounds, that you would not necessarily notice. However, Francis' use of these sounds adds a layer of mystery to the quotidian – not mystery in a surrealist tradition, though, but a process of abstraction that leads to intensified sensual awareness and brings about an oscillation between absence and presence of physicality. This is also reflected in the description Francis gives of his approach: "Each piece was inspired by a particular moment of sound I heard in my surroundings. I've come to call these brief sonic impressions 'sound moments', of 10-20 seconds in length where my attention is drawn to an interesting combination and arrangement of sounds. I attempted to draw or notate the sound moments, with the intention of composing a kind of 'cover version' of each one. During the recording process, each piece took a feel and sense of its own, while retaining some relationship to the original sound impression." Compared to earlier works, such as "Technology of Sleep" or "20 Ways" (both released under the name Eso Steel), the overall sound of "Together alone, together apart" has become softer and more refined (in part due to a shift from analogue to digital equipment, I'd assume), while still maintaining a distinctly rough textural character and focusing on the concrete ('concrete' as in musique concrète) qualities of the sound rather than on extensive digital manipulation, thus again achieving the highly organic effect that had been characteristic of the aforementioned releases. Track one and two weave low-end bass sounds, gritty textures and very vague, far-away melodic hints, into a dense fabric, with the individual elements continually shifting in and out of the listener's perceptional focus. This density produces an intensely immersive effect, which is, however, not based on sheer volume, but on the phenomenological richness of the grinding, hissing and humming sounds that emanate from the speakers. The third and final track, recorded three years earlier than the other two, then changes density for reduction and presents sparse, circulating low frequency pulses, which are accompanied by delicate hiss. The result is no less intense, though, and is here brought about by the almost complete withdrawal of sound, which demands an amount of concentration that borders on absorption. One might notice a certain imbalance between these different approaches, but eventually they prove to be complementing and to be equally convincing examples of Francis' skill to transfer acoustic traces of movements, electric currents and spatial situations into restrained, yet powerful abstractions. Rated 8.9/10"
Ear Labs, The Netherlands, 2008

"Still wondering if the water in New Zealand contains a tiny dose of nuclear power enabling its artistically endowed inhabitants to produce music whose depth is always in direct proportion with pertinence and, quite frequently, characterized by the harsh beauty of contemporary uneasiness (that often borders with the approximation of awareness - but that's a story that words don't explain, whatever one tries to find in them). Richard Francis - participant to/author of over 40 releases since 1996 - conceived these three tracks around "field recordings of indoor and outdoor spaces; handling of fabric, wood, plastic; self noise of home stereo amplifiers, loudspeakers and record players". The composer reports that the pieces were inspired by "sound moments", something captured from the surroundings and somehow combined in segments of 10 to 20 seconds "until each piece took on a feel and sense of its own". The outcome is indeed repeatedly breathtaking, a vibe of utter suspension-in-tension that waits for the flick of a switch to be released in copious quantities of fury. The problem is that the switch can't be found anywhere, so everything remains unexploded in between corpulent quakes from the underground, shortwave densities and hissing parameters for the garnishment of a weakened rarefaction. A blurred parallelism could be delineated in a hybrid of John Duncan, Asher and Bernhard Günter, minus the dynamic oscillations, more towards the "dissipation of energy" zone. An impression of penumbral reclusion - lasting under 30 minutes - that places this artifact just a step below the chef-d'oeuvre pinnacle."
Touching Extremes, Italy, 2008

"As so much communication exhausts itself in the practical function of contact to the detriment of any sort of content, the conversation sound artist Richard Francis holds with field recordings of indoor and outdoor spaces exists in a markedly different vein. It doesn't see the latter partake in a game of manipulation - endeavoring to make the objects - various woods, plastics, fabrics, etc - speak or confess, to transform them into repositories of memory, nor does he invest them as a fetish and employ them in an attempt at identifying himself. No deciphering of these three works is to be had in the least, not on a scale of meaning at any rate. Progress is made only in terms of their sensory effect: an undivided attention to tactility, pitch, loudness, and timbre rewards and then some. If any history is touched upon, it's constructed in the way in which these fleeting sonic impressions draw one so deeply into their hazy, sometimes harsh surfaces, out of one's own narrative, out of one's own sense of time and place, and into another's in a manner that prefigures one's own mortality. An emotional charge is in this sense felt and, in fact, a mutual abreaction often seems to be taking place. Hence a common thread and inextricable tie is established between oneself and the work, a certain null equivalent; and hence perhaps the reason for the albums title. With an inimitable deadpan delivery, the settings are rendered spare to an extreme - indeed, rather than reconciling, most aspects are pushed to the outer limits - often entirely concentrating on tiny, splintery tones and odd, glaucous washes of sound color. The second track stands out as the most thespian, abounding in a sort of swollen minimalism, a clinical mosaic of fluctuating electricity and granular murk. This album attains to a sense of uniqueness and duration over the course of its some thirty minutes. Pieces are entrenched in a liminal time, a spasm in which what has been and what will be steals away."
Cyclic Defrost, Australia, 2008