David Toop
(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Buried Dreams (Beyond, 1994), 5/10
Screen Ceremonies (Wire Editions, 1995), 7/10
Pink Noir (Virgin, 1996), 6/10
Spirit World (Virgin, 1997), 6/10
Museum Of Fruit (Caipirinha, 1999), 7/10
Hot Pants Idol (Barooni, 1999), 5/10
37th Floor At Sunset (Sub Rosa, 2000), 6.5/10
Black Chamber (Sub Rosa, 2002), 5/10

Influential English critic David Toop (1949), who had debuted with his mediocre half of New And Rediscovered Musical Instruments (april 1975 - Obscure, 1975 - Virgin, 1997), a split LP with Max Eastley, and the childish Chol Agogues (april 1977), featuring Toop on all sorts of instruments (from dog whistles to balloons to panpipes to metal-box), percussionist Paul Burwell and Nestor Figueras (on "movement, respiratory and body-percussions"), did not establish himself as a major composer of the avantgarde until he came up with an original way to mix natural sounds, electronics and acoustic instruments.

Suttle Sculpture (may 1977) and Wounds (june 1979) document a collaboration between David Toop and Paul Burwell. On the latter Toop plays electric guitar, flute, cassette, water, rubbish, explosives, six strings harp, bamboo fiddle, whistle, and Burwell plays harp and percussion.

Instead of the usual, noisy collage, Toop stuck to Brian Eno's aesthetic. Thus Buried Dreams (Beyond, 1994), a collaboration with Max Eastley, sounds like musique concrete for the ambient generation.

As he refined that concept, his music began to resemble Jon Hassell without the trumpet, i.e. fourth-world frescoes without a protagonist. Screen Ceremonies (august 1995 - Wire Editions, 1995) was the manifesto of this ethnic and concrete fusion. Ceremony Behind Screens (electronic hisses, metallic rattling, reverbed effects) leads to the slowly pulsing, quasi-dancing, slowly revolving, quasi-circular hypnosis of The Darkened Room. Rhythm is an afterthought for Toop but nonetheless his exploration of bubbling electronica concocts the syncopated beat of Butoh-Porno. The downside of Toop's aesthetic is painfully visible in The Psychic, light repetitive jazz-funk jamming for the new-age audience. The 13-minute I Hear Voices recreates the sinister sounds of a ghostly jungle and layers enough incoherent counterpoint to bestow a metaphysical dimension on them.

Pink Noir (june 1996 - Virgin, 1996) was more predictable and ruined by narration. Spirit World (Virgin, 1997) completed this ideal trilogy.

Toop used real buildings and imaginary buildings as sources of inspiration, conceiving them as sentient organisms, brains made of concrete and wires. Museum Of Fruit (Caipirinha, 1999) was inspired by a building in Japan. The calm and cryptic music, actually, seems more inspired by the "void" inside the building than by the building's shape. The 26-minute eco-suite Smell of Human Life, perhaps his artistic peak, weaves together a rumbling cosmic background radiation and fragile subterranean industrial noise. The dialogue between the two elements, that are themselves mutating all the time, forces repeated shifts of perspective. Toop's signature is the fact that this gloomy process never builds up to real tension and certainly to no visible drama.
The nine-minute An Arthropod Raising Its Head To See The Sirakami creates an unstable soundscape of drones and glitches, blurring the border between languor and fear.
The eight-minute Breathing Chaos for anemic hissing and metallic reverbs sounds like a gas leak snaking its way through a dark basement.
The eleven-minute Glass For Paper is a more angular piece that indulges in dissonance and distortion, composing the equivalent of a Jimi Hendrix solo for glitch music.

Hot Pants Idol (Barooni, 1999) is a spoken-word piece whose texts are taken from one of his books and set to the music of assorted friends. 37th Floor At Sunset (Sub Rosa, 2000) indulged into icy futurism bordering on glitch electronica. Black Chamber (Sub Rosa, 2002) was a humbler electro-acoustic work fragmented in gentle jazz-ethnic vignettes.

Collaborations include: New And Discovered Musical Instruments (Obscure, 1975), Buried Dreams (Beyond, 1994) and Doll Creature (Bip-Hop, 2004) with inventor and composer Max Eastley; Needle In the Groove (Sulphur, 2000) with novelist Jeff Noon; and the live improvisation Breath-taking (march 2003 - Confront, 2004) with Akio Suzuki.

Doll Creature (Bip-Hop, 2004), the third collaboration between two British mavericks (avantgarde composer and critic David Toop, and inventor and composer Max Eastley), is a random parade of brief noisy episodes. They mostly sound improvised and not well thought out. Any amateur can do the same (and probably get more creative) given such sophisticated machines, and we've heard similar experiments hundreds of times before. We are supposed to marvel at the ghostly interstellar resonances of Mouthful of Silence, at the watery burbling that turns into bird-ish chirping in Cyclash Turned Inwards, at the disjointed metallic cacophony of Three Sand Voices, at the muted organic vibrations of Moth Cinema, at the percussive chaos of Dust Of Points, etc. Admittedly, the duo occasionally achieves a haunting ambience that justifies the effort, as in the crackling and rumbling of Metamorphose, or in the shrill insistent dissonance of Graphite in Prussic, or in the gentle dripping and droning of Inscription on Skin, a sort of pre-melodic form of music. But this is mostly just a childish game of finding an intriguing sound and then observing it as it twitches under the microscope. The proceeding gets particularly annoying in the shorter tracks (that simply display a sound, like it or not, and then drop it without even attempting to turn it into art) and in the subsonic ones, that pretend to require "deep listening" when, in fact, there is precious little to listen to. We are probably supposed to write about the subtle properties of pieces like Nights and Cardiomancy. To this ears, those properties are as interesting as Britney Spears' latest video: they have no substance, just stereotypes (of noisy music instead of melodic music). Microscopic science is usually interesting for manufacturers of microscopes and for people who own one, but rather insignificant for the rest of us. This album is no exception to the rule.

His compositions include Siren Space (2002) for tug boats, electronics, text and solo saxophone;

Sound Body (2007) was an entirely digital/electronic work.

(Translation by/Tradotto da Davide Carrozza)

L'influente critico inglese David Toop (1949), che debuttò con la sua mediocre metà di New And Rediscovered Musical Instruments (aprile 1975 - Obscure, 1975 - Virgin, 1997), uno split LP con Max Eastley, e l'infantile Chol Agogues (aprile 1977), con Toop a ogni sorta di strumenti (dai fischi per cani ai palloncini ai flauti di pan alle scatole di metallo), Paul Burwell alle percussioni e Nestor Figueras (alle percussioni "motorie, respiratorie e corporee"), non si pose come un grande compositore d'avanguardia finché non mescolò in maniera originale suoni naturali e strumenti elettronici e acustici. Anziché al solito collage rumoroso, Toop si rifece all'estetica di Brian Eno. Così, Buried Dreams (Beyond, 1994), una collaborazione con Max Eastley, suona come musica concreta per la generazione ambient.

Raffinando quel concetto, la sua musica ricordava Jon Hassell senza tromba, cioè affreschi del quarto mondo senza protagonista: Screen Ceremonies (agosto 1995 - Wire Editions, 1995), il manifesto di questa fusione etnica e concreta, Pink Noir (giugno 1996 - Virgin, 1996), più prevedibile e rovinato dalla narrazione, Spirit World (Virgin, 1997).

Usò edifici veri e immaginari come fonte d'ispirazione, assimilandoli a organismi senzienti, cervelli fatti di cemento e cavi: Museum Of Fruit (Caipirinha, 1999), che contiene l'eco-suite di 26 minuti Smell of Human Life, Hot Pants Idol (Barooni, 1999), un pezzo parlato i testi del quale sono presi da uno dei suoi libri e messi in musica da vari amici, 37th Floor At Sunset (Sub Rosa, 2000), futurismo glaciale confinante con il glitch, Needle In the Groove (Sulphur, 2000), una collaborazione con lo scrittore Jeff Noon, Black Chamber (Sub Rosa, 2002), un'opera elettro-acustica più umile strutturata in soffici vignette jazz etniche.

Tra le collaborazioni: New And Discovered Musical Instruments (Obscure, 1975), Buried Dreams (Beyond, 1994) e Doll Creature (Bip-Hop, 2004) con l'inventore e compositore Max Eastley; l'improvvisazione dal vivo Breath-taking (marzo 2003 - Confront, 2004) con Akio Suzuki; etc.

Doll Creature (Bip-Hop, 2004), la terza collaborazione tra due anticonformisti inglesi (il compositore d'avanguardia e critico David Toop e l'inventore e compositore Max Eastley), è una parata casuale di brevi rumorosi episodi. Sembrano più improvvisati che ponderati. Qualunque principiante può fare lo stesso (e forse in modo più creativo) date macchine così sofisticate, e abbiamo sentito esperimenti simili già centinaia di volte. Dovremmo meravigliarci davanti alle spettrali risonanze interstellari di Mouthful of Silence, all'acquoso borbottio che diventa cinguettio in Cyclash Turned Inwards, alla cacofonia metallica dissociata di Three Sand Voices, alle vibrazioni organiche smorzate di Moth Cinema, al caos percussivo di Dust Of Points, ecc. Va detto, il duo a volte ottiene un'atmosfera evocativa che giustifica lo sforzo, come nei crepitii e nei rimbombi di Metamorphose, o nella dissonanza stridula e insistente di Graphite in Prussic, o nei droni e nel tenue gocciolare di Inscription on Skin, una sorta di forma premelodica di musica. Ma per lo più è un gioco infantile: si cerca un suono intrigante e lo si osserva mentre si contrae sotto il microscopio. Procede in modo particolarmente noioso nelle tracce più brevi (che includono semplicemente un suono, che vi piaccia o no, per poi buttarlo via senza neanche provare a renderlo arte) e in quelle subsoniche, che vorrebbero richiedere un "deep listening" quando invece c'è poco da ascoltare. Dovremmo scrivere sulle sottili proprietà di pezzi come Nights e Cardiomancy. Per queste orecchie, quelle proprietà sono interessanti quanto l'ultimo video di Britney Spears: non hanno sostanza, solo stereotipi (del rumore anziché della melodia). La scienza microscopica interessa di solito chi frabbrica microscopi e chi ne possiede uno, ma per il resto di noi non significa granché. Quest'album non fa eccezione.

Tra le sue composizioni è Siren Space (2002) per rimorchiatori, elettronica, testo e sassofono solista.

Sound Body (2007) è un'opera completamente digitale/elettronica.

Released only 37 years after the fact, the double-disc Lost Shadows - In Defence of the Soul - Yanomami Shamanism, Songs, Ritual, 1978 (Sub Rosa, 2015) collects Amazon shamanic rituals and rainforest sounds, notably the 45-minute Shamans Healing.

David Toop (bass, guitar, electronics and synthesizer), Phil Minton (voices), Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxes), Steve Beresford (Farfisa organ, VCS3 synth), and Mark Sanders (drums) helped artist Maxime Rossi's Dirty Songs on Dirty Songs Play Dirty Songs (Audika, 2017).

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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