David Toop has been developing a practice that crosses boundaries of sound, listening, music and materials since 1970, encompassing improvised music performance, writing, electronic sound, field recording, exhibition curating, sound art installations and opera. It includes eight acclaimed books, including Rap Attack (1984), Ocean of Sound (1995), Sinister Resonance (2010), Into the Maelstrom (2016), Flutter Echo and Inflamed Invisible (2019). His solo records include New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments on Brian Eno's Obscure label (1975), Sound Body on David Sylvian's Samadhisound label (2006), Entities Inertias Faint Beings (2016) and Apparition Paintings (2020). His 1978 Amazonas recordings of Yanomami shamanism and ritual were released on Sub Rosa as Lost Shadows (2016). In recent years he has collaborated with Rie Nakajima, Akio Suzuki, Tania Caroline Chen, John Butcher, Ken Ikeda, Elaine Mitchener, Sharon Gal, Camille Norment, Sidsel Endresen, Thurston Moore and Ryuichi Sakamoto. He is currently Professor of Audio Culture and Improvisation at London College of Communication. Here is his description of his new album.
Watching a film or reading a book I would take note of a line – You could touch him but he wasn't there, or When I first came here I thought I'd never get used to the trains; now, when it's quiet I get nervous, or She fell asleep somewhere outside the world, or For believing you were a strange beautiful unearthly creature from a faraway planet – and speculate on the sound mood they engendered within me and the music that might come of that.
Maybe these titles, torn as they are from cinema screens and the pages of literature and philosophy, give a feeling of romantic or sexual love or some dark pool of nostalgia but that's not it, or it could be if you want it for yourself but not for me, not now; for me it's about the teeming proliferation of complex events in the world, their vivid, hyperreal intensity as this human life steps closer to its end and their sense of fading, like a mist that thins out to leave not a clear bright day but almost nothing of substance as all that beauty is crushed, burned, dug up, wiped out, to be replaced by banality, so it's about a language of love and desire in which we speak openly to all the unknowns, the speculative, the ancestral, the forgotten, the different, the extinct, the unimaginably distant and vast, the incomprehensibly small and intimately close, the fast or the slow, as if as we spoke we were becalmed in a wooden galleon off the coast of Java, sleeping microscopically in soil of a thousand years hence, hearing the voice of a dead person from the rim of a vibrating cup, gliding backwards and weightless through the alleyways of a city unrecognisable yet heartbreaking in its poverty, speaking in conference with winged and amphibious beings, crouching in a cavern whose opening only reveals the spectre of many wonders now apprehended as memories of the skin, heard through cheekbones, nostrils, the crepitation as a neck turns, pains of the knee and thumb and some not yet fully understood sensation within the throat which suggests a way of comprehending that which is being lost of this magical place. All I desire is what already exists or once existed, now falling asleep outside the world.
Don't ask me about genre or consistency. Who cares? The world is drowning; in flames; infected. Each story is an animal, a plant, something you drink, a surface you touch, a faint line, some memory emanating from a cardboard box, all intimately connected. "'Things' in themselves are only events that for a while are monotonous", wrote Carlo Rovelli in The Order of Time. Maybe sounds are melting "things", tired of the monotonous real.
Or can we talk about sounds drying in the air, leaving a faint residue? Apparition painting is the term used to describe a certain type of ancient Chinese painting of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In these works, often associated with Chan (Zen) teachings, the ink used to depict the subject was exceptionally pale, the background lacking in any detail. As Yukio Lippit has written: "This combination results in remarkably self-dissembling images that somehow compromise their own visibility. Apparition painting appears to capture its subjects in mid-fade, as if managing to preserve only a dimly translucent afterimage of a bygone entity."
Here, meanwhile, is a video, directed by Marie Roux, of one of David's tracks.
Apparition Paintings is a record of twelve new tracks, produced, performed and recorded by David Toop, with collaborative contributions from Elaine Mitchener, Keiko Yamamoto, Yifeat Ziv, Rie Nakajima and Áine O’Dwyer. It's released by ROOM40 on September 11 2020. You can pre-order it here.