(Orange Milk, 2015)
I think someone else said it best when describing this tape as “digital modern avant-garde MaxMSP pointillism,” and really, how are you supposed to argue with that? G.S. Sultan is a splattery electronic artist, and there’s no real way to listen to ad.sculpt tutorial without picturing colors dotting an abstract digital surface. Fortunately, the cassette cover helps out a bit – it’s a gorgeous representation of the madness contained within. You absolutely can tell a book, or anything, by its cover! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
So is this then art as conceptual advertising construct? I have no idea. The point of ad.sculpt tutorial may be, as a signpost, to guide prospective students toward a post-grad art program, sound design as physical medium. You say that’s oxymoronic now, but just you wait! Sultan’s making a case that sound is indeed perceivable in physical space, and not just in some synaesthetic way. I think he means to propel us into the future of art with a nigh impossible concept. I’m tempted to call this something like post glitch, or post vaporwave, or something, but I’d be better off giving it designations that have nothing to do with music, I think. Post food. Post butter, post milk, post eggs. Post breakfast at least. I’m sort of hungry now.
The blasts of academic sonics give way in some points to more easily graspable musicality (perhaps), such as at the end of “variations for ad.sculpt” when actual musical tones – processed somehow, obviously, and interrupted by woodblock(-sounding) whacks and unceremoniously cancelled by digital static – peek through. The beginning of “portrait in white concrete” (talk about the physical in that title!) has what sounds like a sample of a string ensemble/orchestra with human voice. And closer “ad.sculpt final study (revised binaural)” also includes a sample of heavily edited music and voice, almost sounding like backmasked passage from a Sigur Rós track. All accessibility of that sort is short-lived, however, as Sultan refuses to back away from his central mode of abstract digitalism.
But that’s the … point (intended!). You’re not supposed to derive euphonic pleasure from ad.sculpt tutorial, and if you somehow had that misconception, the title should be a dead giveaway that this cassette is for the intellectual crowd. That’s not a bad thing. We need folks like G.S. Sultan pointing us (again!) in new directions, unblocking our perceptive barriers to allow for intelligent expansion. Even if Sultan doesn’t necessarily conjure the physical with his compositions, he sure as heck gives it the ol’ college try. And that’s less of a pun than the “point” stuff. It’s total fact.
RIYL: Karl Fousek, Night and Tickets, Oval