Goh Lee Kwang: Essential Experimental Albums

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Local sound and new media artist GOH LEE KWANG has toured Europe with a broken VCD player and collaborated with acclaimed avant-garde musicians. A member of the Experimental Artists Co-op Malaysia (EMACAM), his interactive audio-visual work defies normal art mediums while his compositions have been featured in theatres, dance productions and indie movies. From sonic visual installations to electro-acoustic improvisation to plain ol’ tape music, Lee Kwang’s music offers a personal experience. And now, he gets personal with JUICE as he reveals the experimental albums that changed his life…


You insert the CD into your player and begin to hear some noises. You think it’s the intro of a song; later on you realise that it’s just the noise from the spinning CD. You should’ve gotten yourself a better CD player. You increase the volume, you hear some noises, but again you realise that it’s just the electronic static of the CD player. You should’ve gotten yourself a better/quieter CD player. Is there no content on this CD? You are wrong again… The noise is not from the spinning CD and there’s no electronic static noise from your player. That’s the work of Bernhard Günter. What makes this album so legendary is how he crafted a piece of sound/noise with so much detail-gently, softly, quietly and precisely. Suddenly your entire CD collection of so-called must-haves, 5-star albums/500 all-time best albums…turns into rubbish.


If Mozart or Beethoven had a portable audio recorder, they might have released this album. Instead of symphonies, Eric La Casa prefers the sounds of nature. He bravely ventures with his microphone and recorder into the forests, countryside and jungles to collect sounds and then puts them together just as the classical composers did when they composed-with passion. Field Recording is not a new thing in experimental music (it was called musique concrète), but how you treat your sound source onto your composition is something else. You can find tons of beautiful descriptions on Eric La Casa’s work on the internet, but don’t just read, take a listen.


Although his music nowadays has been associated with indie and electro pop, it wasn’t before Fennesz finally placed the last piece of the puzzle together-that puzzle being the noise-meets-pop formula exhibited by bands like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. Dissonant noise and sweet melodies have never come together this well, tight and melancholic. In most cases, noise will make you feel angry and/or crazy, but this one will cool you down and keep you chilled. Can you expect less from an experimental musician who’s influenced by The Beach Boys?


When it comes to improvisation, you can do whatever the hell you want. But what do you want? Most musicians improvise over a steady rhythm or make loop or play over some chords. Have you ever thought of just laying down your guitar on the table? (This is known as tabletop or prepared guitar.) Or connect the output of the mixer back to the input to generate feedback? Keith Rowe, tabletop guitarist and one of the founders of 60s Brit improvisation band AMM, and Toshimaru Nakamura, the Japanese who “discovered” internal feedback of the mixer itself, teamed up in a small town in France one day and produced a landmark of what would be called “Electro-Acoustic Improvisation (EAI)”. And the world has never been the same since.

Check out Lee Kwang’s experiments with sound and art at www.gohleekwang.tk and gohleekwang.bandcamp.com.

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