Derek Piotr (b. 1991)
Bahar follows the 2014 release of Tempatempat, which was released on MonotypeRec to critical acclaim (“one-of-a-kind sound” -XLR8R, “a whole, deliberate and clear agenda” -ATTN:Mag). Piotr abandons Tempatempat‘s complex programming and abstract vocal play in favor of blunt outsider pop with personal lyrical content. From the jerky, Herbert-leaning skronk of “Tone Offering” to the hypnotic Persian rhythms of the album’s centerpiece, “Sunlight, Fruit Trees”, and near-samba shuffle of “Tennis”, this is Piotr at his most assured.
The record was entirely self-produced. Artwork for the album was completed by Antye Greie-Ripatti (AGF), and mastering was completed by Cory Allen at Altered Ear. A remix by producer Christian Kleine appears as a bonus track for digital territories and on limited edition cassette.
Derek Piotr’s Drono is, as its name suggests, a drone album. It emphasizes the form and durational composition of drone through unquantized, glitching samples and near-absence of rhythm. Yet this is a drone album preoccupied with mutability: the tracks are technically built on sustained harmonic centers, but they feature variation, movement and depth that transcend the limits of drone’s singularity. Rather than emphasising static monotony, each composition is a subdued journey through shifting moods and textures.
Drono was mastered by frequent Piotr collaborator Antye Greie-Ripatti (LINE artist AGF), and its long-form pieces comprise samples of Piotr’s manipulated vocals, self-made sample banks of glittering noise and moments of 16kps.
‘Rivulet To Gulf’ is evocative of a Morton Feldman chorale, if it were performed by a choir of automata. Its delicate beauty is intermittently interrupted by muffled beats floating in from another time. Standout ‘Lakes’ is composed wholly from Maja Ratkje’s spliced voice, organic frequency and emotional resonance drained in favour of pure texture. On ‘Shallows’, Piotr continues the exploration of the Post-Internet condition that drove 2013’s Raj, building a humming and whirring soundscape of pixelated mouse clicks. The gentle static-laden ticking has a sensual effect comparable to ASMR. As its name suggests, ‘Absolute Grey (Piotr/Brinkmann)’ – an edit of Drono center-piece ‘Wash’ – continues the minimal pure tonality of Thomas Brinkmann’s 2015 What You Hear (Is What You Hear) album.
In conceptualizing these pieces, Piotr was inspired by the liminality of water. Water is between states. It is neither solid nor gas; calm nor storm. It is
still and flowing. It is ungraspable in its indefinability. Drono is similarly unfixed and molten in its approximation of drone music. Its arrhythmic textures develop subtly, with progression measured through shifting depths and sonic fluidity rather than forward expansion. Most of its tracks are named after bodies of water: ‘Lakes’, ‘Shallows’, ‘Sound’ (an archaic term for swimming, now used to describe coastal waterways). The record’s title is multi-dimensional, referencing both the record’s drone aesthetic and
a Norwegian island (Drøno). ‘Drono’ is also Malagasy for ‘wash’, aptly reflecting the transient nature of the album.
Drono is ‘washed out’ in its faded, droning quality, but it is also ‘washed’ clean: fertile and bountiful in its freshness. It draws the line between the lapping waves of an ocean and the tranquil stillness of a lake, a cascading water droplet and a motionless pond.
Had Xenakis bought a laptop in 1999, he may have produced something comparable to Grunt and its posthuman #voicenoise aesthetic. Yet this is a wholly unique piece of work. As with Xenakis, Piotr takes recognisably analogue sounds – particularly the voice, but also drawing on acoustic instrumentation and found-sounds from nature – and reconstructs them into 21 intricate ‘electroacoustic’ miniatures. Yet Piotr is less interested in dissolving these boundaries between electric and acoustic than he is in hybridising the organic and the digital. Grunt is subversively queer in its posthuman composition.
While there is an undoubted extension of the pulsing soundscapes introduced on 2016’s Drono, the excited percussive joy that drove 2017’s Forest People Pop is present here too. These pieces do not drift or unfold gently, as on Drono. Instead, they animate, collapse and morph incessantly, their shifting mechanics on full display, evoking Dada sculpture or surrealist cinema. With the exception of the final track, a reworked version of ‘Redirect’ by the legendary Kevin Drumm, every piece on Grunt (mastered by the brilliant Stephan Mathieu) is under three minutes in length – amplifying their jarring sonic distinctions.
Opening track ‘Voice II’ is a violent introduction, splinters of vocals distorted beyond all recognition barking at the listener, before descending into a calming hum. It is followed by the busier ‘DZ’, which can only be described as a choir of malfunctioning robots harmonising over the thunder of a pneumatic drill. ‘Violin I’ and ‘Violin II’ reprocess the titular classical instrument into something industrial, even Lynchian. ‘Ants’ is mesmerising; a sonic microscope trained on a bustling digital jungle. The original version of ‘Redirect’ sounds like magnified liposuction in a hectic printing press. As the album nears its end, ‘Pure’ provides a welcome return to the gorgeous vocal manipulations of Forest People Pop. The constant metamorphosis should be exhausting, but the intricacy of the compositions keeps the album endlessly entertaining and fascinating. The title track, the album’s most powerful statement, substitutes the vocals/instruments/found-sounds of the other pieces for the aggressively juddering vibrations of a Fort Troff Raw Pup, a queer sex toy, highlighting the transgressive identity politics of Grunt’s animal-digital hybrid.
Donna Haraway championed the potential disruption to hegemonic patriarchy enabled by a cyborgian fusion of human and machine. On Grunt, Piotr’s posthuman contraptions and hyper-sexualised queer cultural references blur the boundaries between the organicity of the human voice and the synthetisation of the digital. Translated from Piotr’s native Polish, ‘grunt’ means ‘earth’/‘ground’. This, alongside its association with primitive enunciations, makes Grunt a fitting title for the uncharted hinterlands of bio- digital sound the artist has birthed here: new worlds both organic and cybernetic that celebrate the nuances of non-heteronormative identity.
Derek Piotr (b. 1991) is a Poland-born producer and composer based in New England, whose work focuses primarily on the voice. His work covers genres as diverse as glitch, leftfield pop, chamber, dance, and drone; and he has collaborated with artists including Richard Chartier, Don’t DJ, and Thomas Brinkmann across various disciplines. He has been intern to Meredith Monk, had his work nominated by the jury for Prix Ars Electronica (2012), and featured on Resonance FM and BBC.